6. Citizen Ruth (1996) (Watch on Netflix)
The directorial (feature) debut of the now great Alexander Payne plays humor at the Pro-life debate. Laura Dern stars (Her father Bruce is the star of Payne’s latest, Nebraska) as an addict squatter, with four kids already taken from her custody. When she is arrested again this time for felony charges, she finds herself pregnant again. The judge offers a deal for a lighter sentence if she has an abortion.
Representatives from both sides of the “pro-life” argument make incentives to sway her decision, in a smart satire like way to communicate the moral realism of the abortion debates. It’s funny and thought provoking in the best way.
7. Swimming With Sharks (1994) (Watch on Netflix)
Indie films are also known for its wealth of “making movies” themes. This half hilarious half scary film has an assistant trying to pay his dues working for the terror producer executive Kevin Spacey.
Frank Whaley mentioned above for his directing debut of Joe the King, perfectly embodies the weak doormat of a Hollywood newbie assistant Spacey has no reservations about torturing on anhour-by-hour basis. When push comes to shove in a dark turn, you can see just how far they take this love/hate relationship. Hilarious and dark…this stands as a great industry of Hollywood flick.
8. L.I.E. (2001) (Watch on Netflix)
A dark version of the “coming-of-age” story, L.I.E. as an acronym for the Long Island Expressway, deals with youth left on its own, and what kind of struggles can come across its path. It stars the early debut of Paul Dano as the main protagonist. A kid left on his own after his mother dies and his father gets arrested for white-collar crimes. He finds Big John, frighteningly played by Brian Cox, who brings him into his home. Now, it’s never explicitly said or showed, but is fairly obvious that Big John is a pedophile with a somewhat twisted moral code.
Again, it’s not made obvious and is the skill of the filmmakers to play the fine line and say a lot with only images and inferences. It’s another film dealing with the harsher subjects of life in more direct ways. But this is indicative of independent films, they can take the harder risks, and we the audience are better for it.
9. Happy, Texas (1999) (Watch on Netflix)
This was the little movie that appeared before the “Little Miss Sunshine” craze. Made for barely half a million dollars, it took the hearts of audiences with its tale of two bank robbers with hearts of gold. They descend upon “Happy, Texas” to hid out before a bank robbery, they insinuate themselves into the community, and become local favorites. With the cops on their trail they become the identity of “beauty pageant” directors, putting on a show with a local elementary school. It’s a funny and heart warming film with a rare quality of writing.
10. The War Zone (1999) (Watch on Netflix)
Tim Roth’s directorial debut is not for the faint of heart. It deals with a subject of such evil that for those of you that do decide to click on it, you will find one of the bravest films ever made. It deals with incest and child abuse in a seemingly normal family. A boy discovers the secret of his older sister and his father, and eventually tasked with destroying the family entirely by revealing the evidence.
It’s much more subtle than I just described but does not shy away from exploring the gritty details and the heartbreaking confrontations of this sensitive subject. Tim Roth himself is an advocate for charities dealing against child abuse and incest. It’s a rough one, but a challenging and important one.