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(123) Days of Summer: An Indie Film Guide

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 4, 2009 at 10:50AM

(123) Days of Summer: An Indie Film Guide
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(123) Days of Summer: An Indie Film Guide

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since being published last week, the calendar subsection this article introduces has received dozens of new entries. Thank you for reaching out to us about missed films, and please keep checking back with us for daily updates to the calendar, and for new additions - such as an upcoming section devoted to DVD releases, and previews of all the films in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Check out the updated calendar here.

The summer movie season isn't exactly best known for independent film. With billions of likely recession-proof dollars set to be spent on the countless sequels, remakes, and sequels of remakes set to be released in the next four months, one wonders how much space is really going to left over for the littler guys.

But, while summer will never be the independent film hotbed that is the fall, in recent years there have actually been quite a few indie breakouts during the studio's favorite months. Last year, for example, The Weinstein Company released "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" to Woody Allen's highest grosses since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters"; Sony Pictures Classics had its future Oscar nominee "Frozen River," Magnolia ended up with one of the year's highest grossing documentaries in "Man on Wire," and Music Box Films and Picturehouse had sizeable foreign-language hits in "Tell No One" and "Mongol."

There were also a lot of disappointments (cough, "American Teen" and "Hamlet 2," cough), and summer can be a particularly risky time to release an independent film, partially due to the mass amount of studio pictures with huge advertising budgets that are bogarting three or four screens (or more) in some multiplexes.

So, it's also important to look outside the box office. A lot of great films are going to come and go this summer, and even if they are destined for meager grosses, they might still deserve your attention. It just might be hard for some to find that attention, given the plethora of "Star Trek" and "Transformers 2" ads blocking your view. So in an attempt to help change that, indieWIRE has started a new sub-section of its website, entitled simply, Calendar. It organizes individual pages for films being released in the coming months into an easily navigated roster based on release date. Click on a particular film, and you'll find various information about it (director, distributor, cast, synopsis, etc), links to previous indieWIRE coverage, coverage from other publications, and the film's trailer.

Now, this calendar is certainly not exclusive to the summer season. Individual pages will be created and updated year-round, conceived, for example, when a film breaks out a particular film festival. But, since today is the official kick off of the summer season, and it just happens that said season's slate is the first batch of films we have published, it seemed like it was a good way to both introduce our Calendar, and give you an idea as to what expect from the indie film world these next few months. So head over to the next page for just that (though, for future reference, the calendar is easily reachable from the "Quicklinks" menu on indieWIRE's homepage).

May

From the latest from Jim Jarmusch (The Limits of Control, which opens today), Oliver Assayas (Summer Hours), Steven Soderbergh (The Girlfriend Experience) and Atom Egoyan (Adoration), May is enjoyably heavy on the auteurs. But, it also offers an eclectic mix of other options, from Tilda Swinton boozing it up as a manipulative, alcoholic kidnapper (Julia), to Kirby Dick's examination of hypocrisy in closeted gay Washington (Outrage), to the Japanese film that shocked everyone when it won this year's best foreign language film Oscar (Departures). Not to mention Steve Coogan as "a morally challenged New York reporter" (What Goes Up), a love triangle featuring Jennifer Aniston, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn (Managament), and Robert Pattinson going both indie and gay as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes.

For a complete list of May releases, click here.

A scene from Woody Allen's "Whatever Works." Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

June

In the wake of its premiere at the Director's Fortnight, Francis Ford Coppola will release his Tetro in June, placing himself a week away from the release of another legendary director that's been making films for nearly 50 years, Woody Allen (Tribeca opener Whatever Works). Other June releases include a comic entry from Sam Mendes and screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida (Away We Go), Stephen Frears attempting to give Michelle Pfeiffer the critical comeback she deserves (Cheri), the return of Nia Vardalos (My Life In Ruins), a documentary about modern developments in food production (Food, Inc.), a Sundance favorite starring Sam Rockwell as an astronaut and Kevin Spacey as the voice of a robot (Moon), as well as a critically-lauded holdover from last year's Toronto Film Festival, The Hurt Locker, which will attempt to be the first Iraq-themed indie to ever be considered financially successful.

For a complete list of June releases, click here.

July

It's the summer of Sundance in July, with a bevy of notable titles from the fest taking later summer berths (hey, it worked for "Little Miss Sunshine"... but there's also, uh, "Happy, Texas," "Tadpole", "Hamlet 2"...). Seemingly positioned as the summer's biggest potential breakout is "Sunshine" distributor Fox Searchlight's Joseph Gordon-Levitt-Zooey Deschanel romance (500) Days of Summer (which has grown parentheses since Park City), but there's also doc jury prize winner, The Cove, "(500)"'s Fox Searchlight brother Adam, Lynn Shelton's acclaimed straight-boys-make-a-gay-porn comedy Humpday, the Jeff Daniels comedy formerly-known-as-"Arlen Faber," The Answer Man, and IFC's well-received political farce In The Loop. There's a few non-Sundance options as well, including music festival doc (and Toronto and Berlin alum) Soul Power, Belgian import (and Cannes alum) Lorna's Silence, and though it isn't an independent film, SXSW alum and likely highly anticipated no matter what arena your cinematic dollar sways, Bruno.

For a complete list of July releases, click here.

August

The final month of the summer's slate is still a little bare (which is likely due to release dates simply not being scheduled yet), but what is there is pretty inticing. Two major films in the upcoming Cannes competition lineup - Quentin Tarantino's Brad Pitt-kicks-nazi-ass film, Inglourious Basterds, and Ang Lee's anticipated take on Woodstock, Taking Woodstock - are among them, as are Overture Films' recent pickup, the Charlyne Yi-Michael Cera romantic documentary-fiction hybrid Paper Hearts, Sophie Barthes' Paul Giamatti-as-Paul Giamatti existential comedy Cold Souls, and Davis Guggenheim's acclaimed documentary featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, It Might Get Loud.

Be sure to check back for an updated list of August releases here.