A few random thoughts about film and the people involved with them…
While sitting at home in pain and nursing my sore back today after yet another fall on the ice last night, I have been thinking about film, and about the people involved with films. Not so much the pros as the fans and professional film critics, both of which I lay claim to being (well, SEMI-pro on the latter…).
I took a survey sent to me today by the Toronto Film Festival. It’s a festival I’ve never been to, and after taking their survey, I’m not sure I’m interested in going. Ever.
The questionnaire positively REEKED of pretentiousness. The VERY THING that turns me off when it comes to the independent film scene. I cannot stand "film snob" types who put on airs, and look down your nose at you when you mention something ::GASP::: MAINSTREAM.
There were a lot of choices on various questions that were specifically designed to slam on mainstream films:
"I like films strictly for their entertainment value"
"I prefer films that don’t make me think"
"I love films that make me realize that I can change the world"
"Independent films are higher quality because they are made outside the studio system"
And on and on. Now I’m paraphrasing a few choices, yes. But the result is still the same. The above, and at least 10 other questions on the survey, were specifically designed to make you think you’re better than everyone else if you like Independent films.
It’s that attitude among film fans that I LOATHE.
I love independent films. Indie films ARE where it’s at 9 times out of 10. This much is a true statement.
But it does NOT mean you have to dislike or look down on mainstream films either.
And let me tell you a secret…everyone out there standing up and talking in a funny voice about what a masterpiece the latest movie by Wong Kar-Wai or Wes Anderson is… ALSO ::GASP AGAIN:: has a copy of "The Simpsons Movie" or "Porkys" on their DVD shelves…turned spine-in of course, to avoid being embarrassed and to limit the chance of discovery…
GIVE ME A BREAK, PEOPLE!
I’m a member of the Chlotrudis Society For Independent Film, the American Film Institute, and Film Independent. I love being able to vote in this year’s Spirit Awards, and being on the Chlotrudis Nominating committee.
I also love "Transfomers", "Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix", and ::GASP YET AGAIN:: "Happy Feet". And GOD HELP my weakness for "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and Showcase Cinema’s recent "Attack Of The B Movies" series.
What are you gonna do? Put me in film jail? Take away my Zhang Yimou collection? Tell me I can’t belong to Friends Of Landmark anymore?
For your information, three indie films rank in my Pantheon Top Five list – my ALL-TIME Favorite Films – "Brick", "Wristcutters:A Love Story", and "Fierce People".
Joining them in the top Five – Zhang Yimou’s exquisite "Hero" and Catherine Hardwick’s unfairly and much-maligned masterpiece "Lords Of Dogtown". And – get ready to scream – Peter Jackson’s take on "King Kong" won my Poppy for Best Picture in 2005! So there!
(I can hear people running away screaming….Michael, you’re not going to cancel my Chlotrudis membership now are you? Heh heh heh…)
Now, we come to all this awards coverage…and what do I see? A bunch of pundits lauding how much better indie films are than mainstream films. One critic I read this week was having an aneurysm because ::Ga…oh, never mind you get the idea:: John Travolta got nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes AND the cast of Hairspray got nominated for Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild awards. And, oh, how utterly WRONG it was that these nominations happened, because they ROBBED some poor, unfortunate indie film of their nomination.
As the late, great Nell Carter used to say, "Gimme a break!"
GUESS WHAT, Mr. Critic? NONE of my favorite films of the year have been nominated for ANYTHING! Where are the deserved nominations for "Wristcutters", "Fierce People", "Once", "December Boys", "Black Irish", "Man In The Chair" and other equally worthy films? At least "Once" is getting musical nominations, but the others? Zilch. How unfair is that?
Hell, even the year’s most widely praised indie film, "Waitress", is getting snubbed in most circles.
I reinterate – How unfair is that?
Should indie film be celebrated? Absolutely! At the expense of smaller indies that don’t attract much attention? Unfortunately, it happens…
But at the expense of mainstream crowdpleasers like "Hairspray" that are every bit as good as indie darlings like "Romance and Cigarettes"?
NOT IN YOUR LIFE!
I haven’t seen "No Country For Old Men" yet. I plan to see it this weekend. And I plan on trying to catch "There Will Be Blood" before the Poppies are decided, though the trailer left me less than enthused.
But I can tell you this..and you "professional" film critics out there, prepare for a heart attack…
I’ve seen several other Coen films – "Fargo", "Raising Arizona", "Miller’s Crossing" , and most of "The Big Lebowski".
Didn’t like any of them. Sure there were moments, but overall, I didn’t care for ANY of them. So the odds are NOT on the Coen’s side when I try to get to the theater this weekend.
I’ve had the odd PNR visitor or two, and a few industry pros as well, question my validity as a film critic because I gave rave reviews to "Hairspray", "Transformers", and in past years, "Clerks II" and "Rent".
Apparently, these people feel I’ve officially flunked out of film critic school.
Well, when I started Popcorn N Roses a little over two years ago, it was my goal to shake things up a bit. I believe in trying to represent the Average Fan’s Point Of View. I’m not trying to be Mr. #1 Film Critic – hell, even Roger Ebert RAVED about "Smokin’ Aces" (so did Kim, come to think of it…haven’t seen it, can’t comment on it…)
Those who question my thinking because I love mainstream films too, I point you to my rave reviews of "Wristcutters", "Brick", "Fierce People", and two as-yet unreleased films, "Once Upon A Film" and "Still Green", among many many other indies.
I’m even doing my part to help try to promote those indie films without major visibility or without a major distribution deal as yet; A brand new site devoted to those films – Indie Film Spotlight – launches in January.
But don’t be surprised when the four or five movies on seemingly ALL the critics’ lists for this year probably don’t show up on mine. I’m not about to jump on the bandwagon if I think some other movie out there is better. Never have, never will.
Sure, I’d like to have major film studios use quotes from my reviews for their publicity. Sure, I’d like to get more traffic and turn PNR into a full-time gig.
But NOT at the expense of my gut feelings. Because what I like is what many average fans will like. And there will be differences of opinion, that much goes without saying (although I just said it…).
But at least I don’t make fans of PNR and Subject:CINEMA feel they’re any less of a film lover just because one or two of them happen to like a gawd-awful piece of garbage like "The Lost Skeleton Of Cadvera"…just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy their friendship and listenership any less…
As Linda Ellerbee would say…"And So It Goes…"