Or the month, or maybe more.
Being very idly bored just now I was trawling through various sites and stumbled across Ann Hornaday’s “From Indie Chic to Indie, Sheesh” at the Washington Post.
Two things to be said first — first, her general conclusion — ‘indie films made and marketed as such are as formulaic as any other putative genre’ — is perfectly sound. It itself is a formulaic conclusion but it is sound, a no-brainer but a reminder that nothing kills off the sense of being distinct and/or unique more than everything around you saying the same thing. (This scene from one of the greatest movies ever made being the classic example of same.)
Second, Hornaday’s obviously someone who knows her film, and if there’s something amusing to note about the fact that she complains about indie films’ tendencies towards “pop culture references that are by turns obscure and painfully hip” and ends up talking about films and filmmakers I have never heard about once ever, well, therein the dilemma of most critics to start with. At the least, I have some new names to keep in mind, though I find one of her conclusions to be veering too close to a simplistic back-to-basics rant:
…[filmmakers should] rediscover values like intelligence, emotional truth, moral heft and restraint, which will endure long after indie-chic signifiers and smug hermeticism have worn themselves out
One can’t have both? (On a more serious note: that her bullet points for a solution can be seen as much a preset formula as that she complains against isn’t addressed, and this sense of film-as-educational/moral-uplift is curious in its implied didacticism.)
But all this said — this is more often than not a terribly written article. When I first started to read it, these two paragraphs leapt out at me to the point I had to copy/paste them to share with friends:
Call it “There Will Be Hamburger Phones”: More than 20 years after American independent cinema entered its latest Golden Age, what started as a fiercely autonomous cinematic response to Hollywood and its dominant genres has become a genre itself. And like all genres, the indie aesthetic is rife with its own versions of the hackneyed conventions, tired tropes and cliched themes that weigh down the most predictable action spectacle or by-the-numbers rom-com.
Dysfunctional family? Try “Rachel Getting Married.” Disaffected teen? Meet “Donnie Darko.” Sexual taboos? “Tadpole’s” got ’em. Sly references to pop arcana and sardonic humor? Go, “Rushmore”! Hipper-than-thou soundtrack? Listen to “Garden State,” it’ll change your life. Llamas and recreational drug use are optional. An overarching tone of ironic detachment is not: Irony is to the indie what the horse is to the Western and the rain-slicked street is to the noir thriller.
This is a classic example of me agreeing with all the sentiments expressed and never wanting to read that ever again. An endless list of left/liberal political sites comes to mind.
However, the true piece de resistance comes later. When I first read it, I thought “Eh,” then I reread it and went “What?” and then I reread it again and thought “You have GOT to be kidding me.”
I conclude by presenting that paragraph in full. I simply ask you to consider the sense of chronology at work, and ask yourself who is more responsible in the end — the writer or the editor?
[2004’s] “Napoleon Dynamite” featured another dreaded de rigueur element in just about every indie film: the wacky senior citizen, in this case a grandmother who races all-terrain vehicles and raises llamas. In “Little Miss Sunshine,” the role of choice was a heroin-addicted grandfather, for which Alan Arkin won an Oscar. (The 2006 picture won another Oscar for Best Screenplay and was nominated for two more, including Best Picture.) Since then, no indie film worth its micro-budget hasn’t featured some Hollywood veteran “stretching” in an unexpected role, whether it’s Ellen Burstyn in Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 drug drama “Requiem for a Dream” or 1970s stars Pam Grier and Robert Forster in Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” or — in this year’s Most Unlikely Comeback Triumph — Mickey Rourke in Aronofsky’s upcoming “The Wrestler.”