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Thread: indie vs. big budget, etc.

  1. #1
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    indie vs. big budget, etc.

    The movies you mention aren't favorites of mine. "Being John Malcovitch" didn't appeal to me as much as it did to a lot of people: I thought it was contrived, and to begin with, John Malcovitch is NOT someone I'd want to ever even for two seconds fantasize about being. "Royal Tenenbaums" didn't charm me the way it was supposed to; again, it seemed arch and contrived. And "O Brother! Where Art Thou?" seemed to me to make a mockery of country singers and country people; I guess I didn't get the joke, and I'm not a huge Coen brothers fan--I'm one of those who think not every one of their movies is pure gold. (I love "Blood Simple" and "Barton Fink" though, and I respect their integrity in choosing to remain independent and offbeat.)

    In their continuing to make the same kind of movies despite being financially fairly secure (I think), the Coen brothers are like Woody Allen. How about Woody Allen? His Oscar night appearance was a rare occurence, but he's really a HOllywood icon. He's consistent, boringly so, in maintaining his persona from film to film, ad infinitum, so the fact that he can get as much as he needs of cash and stars doesn't change him any.

    Some great European directors who were able to do the same kind of stylish, individual work over and over eventually completely burned out and had nothing left to say: my best example would be Antonioni.

    I feel a little uncomfortable talking about this topic, though, because I don't know enough about the economics of movies to really classfiy all these films as to cost and size.

    I agree, of course, that small budget doesn't mean good. I go by the assumption that generally it costs a lot of bucks to make a movie, even if Richard Rodriguez made "El Mariachi" for $7,000.

    "Small doesn't mean good" makes me think of Miguel Arteta, a small budget director whose work I seem to loathe. I think "Star Maps" was bad, and "Chuck and Buck" was terrible. But he may be in a category as I mentioned when talking about "PUmpkin" of movies reflecting a younger sensibility to which it's good to be weird or geeky. I think the young audience may misread Arteta. They think he's cool, while his movies are just bad. But I have to go and see his latest movie to see if I'm right about that.

    M. NIght Shyamalan, whom I started out with, is completely different. He doesn't want to be offbeat; he wants to be mainstream. He wants to make movies that cost a lot of money. He wants to be hugely famous, and he wants to be a household word. He wants to form a bond with an audience--a very large audience--such that they will go out to see his latest movie because it's M. Night, not because it's Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis (but just to be on the safe side, he puts them in his movies--which is just what Hitchcock was and did). And I have no problem with this, if he can carry it off and still do something good once in a while. But Shyamalan has a schlocky sensibility in a way that Soderbergh, say, never will; Soderbergh may gradually be "selling out" in some sense, but Soderbergh is hip. Shyamalan isn't hip; but he's something much more powerful: he has the ability to chill and thrill and move you.

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    Catching up on these threads but I'd say that we should celebrate an artists calling card, even if thats all they do their whole career. If that is what they want to show then so be it. An artists worth need not depend on their adherence to "popular" taste or to multifaceted production.

    Shyamalan vs Hitchcock? not sure.

    I like Anderson vs Hitchcock: you could be right about Royal Tennenbaums but talk about stocking the picture with stars!
    Alot of people who go to see his movies do so because he made them and not because of who is in them. But just for safety, toss in about 7 big timers.
    I'll figure this out later.

  3. #3

    No one can ever be a new Hitchcock

    Alfred Hitchcock was one of a kind! there can never be another one like him. I try to judge films on an individual bases, if I didn't I would compare lots of directors to what is out there now. Like John Houston to Ridley Scott, or something like that. That's like comparing apples to oranges. Shymalan has something great going in all of his movies, the same theme; I believe the theme is great, but Hitchcock's themes in his movies was never about faith in God and that everything happens for a reason. His themes were more about trumiph of the human spirit, using your brains and natural abilities to help yourself out of a situation, insanity. We can't even say if Hitch believed in God, or anything like that. Furthermore, I don't believe there was a Hitchcock movie with any ghost, aliens, or half crazy kids. There were dead people and mysteries and intrigue. I had to sound off on people comparing Night to Hitch, there's nothing to compare.

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    Miguel Arteta

    I certainly have to eat my words about Arteta, and I'm happy to do so. "The Good Girl" is a winner I'd never have predicted from seeing the shaky "Star Maps" and the grating "Chuck and Buck."

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    You seem to be a persistent cynic. You don't seem to like any movie. Perhaps you shouldn't go out to see them, stay home and write your own.

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    I don't get it.

    In these discussions, it's better not to get too personal.

    This thread has given you the wrong impression. I love movies. If I didn't love movies I wouldn't be here.

    In fact, I just said I like "The Good Girl," and that I'm happy to eat my words about Arteta, whose previous movies didn't seem so promising to me. I love most of Soderbergh's movies. He's really been on a roll with "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovitch" and "Ocean's Eleven" and almost every movie he has made has been really great. I have tremendous admiration for Shyamalan even if I said he has a "schlocky sensibility." I may be more critical than the average viewer. But contrarily, when I like a movie I go all out in favor of it. I don't say "I didn't mind" a certain movie. I either love it or I hate it. I don't want to offend anybody. But I'm happy if I stiimulate discussion.

    I think that's what we're here for. To discuss movies. Not personalities.

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    I don't know if one can separate the person who perceives movie from the movie because the interaction between the two is what makes movie discussion interesting. If one believes that there were some absolute, objective way of defining good and bad movies, then it would be possible to separate the personality from the movie, but its the interaction between the two that seems to result in the final observations people make on a movie. Thus, its important to know about the observer as much as the observed. What a person likes or dislikes in a movie can reveal much about the person.

    I'm more intrigued by off-beat, independent movies that seem to tweak the envelope and make one's mind have to go into hyper-drive or probe the human condition.

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    Of course, you're perfectly right. I agree that personality is essential in making judgments about movies or any other art. But you don't want to judge a person too quickly. I was just guilty of that myself. I didn't like the choices of one of the other contributers and then I looked up a lot of his reviews and found that I love some of the same movies he does, ones that I care a lot about. I had misjudged him on the basis of too little information.

    I didn't think it was particularly kind of you to tell me I should stay home. That wasn't exactly a compliment, was it? If it was, you could have fooled me. There's a difference between recognizing the importance of personality and being too personal in addressing someone you don't know. You don't know me. Don't assume you know what I'm like, or that you wouldn't like me. You yourself sound much nicer than you did the first time.

    But even if we don't agree, even if our personalities are diametrically opposed, we can have a good discussion if we agree to disagree in a polite fashion without name-calling.

    If you see what I've said on this site about Wong Kar-Wai and Kurosawa's "Ikiru" and about many other movies elsewhere such as "In the Bedroom," "Bourne Identity,""Reign of Fire," "La Pianiste," "Marie Baie des Anges," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "The Good Girl,""Tadpole," "Two Hour Photo," "Read My Lips," and many others that I've seen and commented upon online quite recently, you'd realize that I'm no "cynic" (I guess you mean someone who hates everything) and can get very enthusiastic about a wide variety of movies.

    I'm all for off-beat, independent movies too--again, isn't that why we're here?

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    ?

    "Full Frontal" starring Julia Roberts.

  10. #10
    As for indie v. big budget. Well the English Patient was an "indie" flick, but they had a 40 million dollar budget. The line between these two ideals, and that's what they've beome, ideals more than facts, is blurring so rapidly that even using them anymore is a risky business. The only people who throw these terms around are art house film snobs and studio execs who are so out of touch it's amazing they keep their jobs.

    It's ROBERT Rodriguez, not Richard Rodriguez. Also, and this is very important, I think you're right with regard to O Brother; you didn't get it. "Making fun"??? Come on. It was brilliantly funny, not because it was a Coen brothers movie, but because it was damn funny.

  11. #11
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    Additions and corrections on "indie"

    I want to apologize for getting Robert Rodriguez's name wrong. In polishing off a whole series of directors and movies in a couple of paragraphs I probably offended a few, but if I got a discussion going I did my job. I said I didn't ‘get’ "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" I should perhaps have added that even if you don't get it, the soundtrack of “O Brother” is quite wonderful, and I'd be reluctant to deny that the movie has some moments of splendid absurdity. The cast and crew had a lot of fun making it and that comes through. I’m far from condemning the movie. It just didn’t speak to me as it does to some.

    As long as people come along and try to make a movie on a shoestring, the concept of "indie" will have some meaning. Some of us are not blessed with insider knowledge of the film industry but we can grasp this fact: there are small productions, and there are huge ones, and the sensibility that tends to inform the two is way different. But the distinction between the two extremes is complicated by the many shadings between big budget Hollywood production and shoestring. Some directors seem to go Hollywood as soon as they get a big success with a smaller production. Others, the auteur types, somehow manage to stay hungry, or at least stay independent in their thinking and their working methods, like the Coen brothers, Woody Allen, or Spike Lee. "The English Patient" is a good example to bring up. Saul Zaentz was hardly working on a shoestring. However, he did work separate from Hollywood and he has had have a harder time promoting his movies than Time/Warner or Disney because of his degree of independence.

    It’s also true that the word “indie” has become a cliché bandied about very loosely. Sometimes it may be used to suggest a movie is more original and edgy than it really is, or to promote a production that in fact is really quite commercial. But I don’t think you need argue that because a distinction is complicated or has become blurred -– or that the terms have been misused — the whole concept has lost all meaning.

    Another point I wanted to bring up is that away from Hollywood and Bollywood other countries’ movie industries seem to tend to create an atmosphere more conducive to small budget, independent filmmaking. There’s less money involved – usually a whole lot less – and there’s less pressure to be commercial, plus of course the audience demographics are quite different. Till Vivendi started trying to rule the world it seemed that French films were almost totally government subsidized, and this allowed filmmakers in France in the Eighties and Nineties to do much edgier things using major actors. I hope that Vivendi doesn’t succeed in squelching that. Another serious issue is the way American culture has colonized other countries. In this respect France, through fierce cultural pride, has held the line better than Italy. A number of countries that had active film industries have tended to knuckle under in recent years as the American monolith grows ever larger and more monolithic. But commerce also fosters “indie” for various reasons. The video industry has helped films to get by while bombing at the box office, because of greater residuals. Small productions that take off can be more efficient ways of making money than middle-sized productions that bomb. Nonetheless to some extent in America the big budget movie production industry can have the effect of gobbling up the “indie” world, and foreign films in America are just a pawn of the larger American film industry, just a dash of harmless spice. But however they get to us, to a large extent foreign movies read to us as “indie.”

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    As the Sundance Film Festival continues in Utah which is not to far from where I live and the success of the "Blair Witch Project," leads me to believe that independent films still exist in abundance. There seems to be many regional film festivals nowadays and plenty of independent films being picked up by the big distributors. There still seems to be a "look" to independent films that you don't get with big production films. I'm still wondering though how one would classify, "Full Frontal."

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    To me, the difference between indie and "big budget" films has little to do with budget, although indie films do tend to have less cash to work with. To me, the difference is summed up in my band trip.

    I'm in a college marching band and we often take trips places. Usually we take coach buses if we are going long distances (say, to Massachusetts) and we have TV's on the bus. People bring movies to watch, and I usually bring along my collection. Since I am very specific about the movies I buy, I had, among other things, Donnie Darko, Pi, and Pink Floyd's The Wall (though that I don't think can be counted as an indie film under ANY definition). While one or two people would ahve enjoyed watching my films the vast majority voted for things like Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

    To me, indie films generally appeal to less because they aren't made for the masses, they are made for a specific crowd who likes strange films or artsy films or just have very specific interests. Big Budget films are made to sell, and they won't sell unless they appeal to a large mass of people. And there are plenty of mass produced films that I enjoy, just not as much as some indie films. It's all about who you're marketing to.
    Without you, today's emotions are the scurf of Yesterday - Hipolito

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    Seems like an indie movie is made "independent" of obsessive consideration for budget, audience, or other such considerations and is more of a personal creative act of the producer, director to make something they want, not what somebody else wants.

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    Lots of good dialogue here...

    I have a problem with Hitchcock. I'm not so ready to lavish praise on him. He has a handful of films that are true masterpieces (The 39 Steps, Vertigo, Psycho, Dial M for Murder) but for the most part I don't think he is all that "legendary". In fact, sometimes I find his work to be incredibly boring & tedious. His frequent use of rear-projection really irritates me. How can Billy Wilder do it without me even noticing?
    Don't get me wrong- I know Hitch is a god to some, but most of the time for me his movies are NO DIGGETY. (especially Rope)

    In other news: Soderbergh is a craftsman. You can call him a sell-out all you want (I have a few times!) the man can SHOOT. Check out Schizopolis. If that ain't "indie" I don't know what is...

    As far as independent filmmakers go, I think the best of them all is Jim Jarmusch. He's maintained integrity and continues to make staggering films for next to nothing. (Ghost Dog was made for $7 million!) How does he do it? But if you really wanna crunch numbers, Greenaway is the champ of the independent scene. Would you believe he made Cook Thief for only $2 mil? He's making a trilogy right now for something like $12 mil. A TRILOGY!
    I gotta get on that bus....
    Last edited by Johann; 10-15-2003 at 03:28 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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