Saturday, October 11, 2008

Required reading: "Little Miss Juno Dynamite"

When I go read the Washington Post online, which I can confidently say I do every single day, I usually go straight for politics, which the newspaper does better than any other publication I've come across except maybe The Economist (and Chris Cillizza's washingtonpost.com blog The Fix is simply as infectious as it is informative.)

On the weekend, however, when the politics often comes to a halt, I turn to the arts writing, which is often just as good, as it certainly was this morning with an entertaining and insightful essay from movie critic Ann Hornaday.

Her premise, that the word "indie" has lost all meaning as such flicks have entered the mainstream and all started to look alike, is a familiar one, but she attacks it with vigor and makes her case with style (even if she's more than a little too harsh on "Napoleon Dynamite," which I stand by as close to a modern classic.)

Whether you agree with her diagnosis of the problem and prescribed cure for it or not, her essay is still required reading for anyone who loves going to the movies. You can read it here and come to your own conclusions.

8 comments:

Chalupa said...

Is it bad that I've seen or have heard of almost every movie in that article?

Reel Fanatic said...

Not at all, Chalupa .. I had seen just about all of them too, and like most of those a whole lot more than she did

Bob said...

I don't agree with everything in it, but I think she hits the nail dead on when she says that indies have become as cliche as any other genre and I agree that "Juno" is evidence of that (though I did still kind of like it). It's a movie that seems to have been crafted as an indie for people who don't watch indies. It lets people who actually liked Ron Howard's "Da Vinci Code" say, "I like ALL kinds of movies," even though they probably only watch one independent movie every two years.
As for "Napoleon Dynamite," I love that movie and her argument against, while interesting, didn't really seem to fly. Her hatred of it seems based on the reaction to it more than to the actual movie.
Well this is becoming an essay in itself so I'll wrap it up, but I do have one last point to make. She doesn't seem to acknowledge the "People at Their Most Awful" indie movie. One of the biggest trends in independent movies now seems to be, "Let's only show the absolute worst traits of our characters." As much as I liked "The Squid and the Whale" that's definitely the kind of thing I'm talking about. That's a big part of Alexander Payne's work and from what little I've seen of Todd Solondz he does the same. Interesting that she praises Solondz.
Well I guess that's it, except I do have to say that movies like "In Search of a Midnight Kiss," "Snow Cake," and one she mentioned, "Lars and the Real Girl" are examples of independent films that are not cliched. In that way finding good movies is just the same as it was before. You just have to know where to look.

Reel Fanatic said...

You make a strong case, Bob, but I have nothing but love for "The Squid and the Whale," so we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one (civilly, of course) ... Knowing that Baumbach's movie was largely based on his own life experience, I didn't mind at all that all the parental figures were pretty despicable people (and it doesn't hurt that I'll watch Laura Linney) do just about anything ... As for "Juno," I'm definitely with you there .. I wanted to put it in my Top 10 for the year, but as well-intentioned as it was, it was just cliched enough to sink just below the cut

Sally Belle said...

I'll stand by Napoleon Dynamite with you.

Juno...was a wtf moment for me. hated it.

And I'm with reel fanatic...I'll watch Laura Linney in anything EXCEPT Love Actually. She's great but the movie was a real stinker. Talk about cliches.

Nell Minow said...

It's a dialectic -- the fringe always moves to the middle. I remember seeing an exhibit on British fashion at the Metropolitan Museum in NY with an acousti-guide tour narrated by Johnny Rotten. How long did it take for Johnny Rotten (who memorably told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he had no interest in being included and if they didn't understand they they had not been listening) to go from outrageous and offensive to mainstream? The problem is not the indies, the problem is distribution. Plenty of genuinely provocative and, yes, independent stuff is being made, but distributors and theater-owners always want more of what worked last time. For every cute and cuddly quirk-fest there are a dozen like "Kabluey" or "My War My Story" or "Tarnation" or "The Saddest Music in the World" or "Wherever You Are." With the internet and Netflix and other forms of distribution making it possible for people to get access to these films, I think the real independent movement will be stronger and more vibrant than ever.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you're right there, Nell .. I remember recently making a comment to my brother that all the music today just sounds like crap (making me sound like a very old man), but he corrected me in saying there's still a lot of great stuff out there, but you have to seek it out .. That's certainly true outside the mainstream of American movies, and hopefully always will be

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