November 18, 2004

What is an American movie now? (NYT) Talk amongst yourselves.
  • "America had a green fantasy creature and Michael Moore..."
    i can't touch this. it's too perfect as it is!
  • Is there a point to this article? It seems to lack hard facts or new insights.
  • Is there a point to this article? It seems to lack hard facts or new insights. No no, Richer, this topic is "What is an American movie?", not "What is American Journalism?"
  • if they are making something that not only has to play in Peoria but in Poland as well... then gosh, we'll be getting a lot less subtlety and a lot more stuff blowed up real good (bonus points for the reference). american film companies aren't making american films anymore, they are making a product that sells worldwide. granted, this article only really talked about major studio projects (yeah, miramax is a major studio). there's a lot of interesting stuff happening in stuff with low budgets and limited releases. this doesn't catch the international eye (unless somehow it ends up in a euro film fest), and it doesn't create a vision of what's "American" for the rest of the world. is this another industry that the american behemoth should yield? p.s.--yeah, there's lots of crappy small budget stuff too, and things that are inbetween. on preview, Richer has the core of it.
  • american film companies aren't making american films anymore, they are making a product that sells worldwide. I'd suggest that spy movies are somthing in this direction, especially post-Cold War as the world "balkanizes" around energy resources or terrorism. Movies like Ronin or the Bourne series so far are stabs at this, with cross-culture participation.
  • mmmmm . . . crap?
  • Okay, it's not representative of American cinema as a whole, but American indie cinema is in rude health right now (as the article notes, much of it ably championed by one of Murdoch's smaller tentacles, Fox Searchlight - which is a bit painful to admit). That there are now certifiable behind-the-camera 'stars' of alternative cinema - Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, P.T. Anderson, David O. Russell, Alexander Payne - who all seem perfectly happy, even determined, to continue making such films, is a very healthy sign. Even if the Coens have gone a bit shit recently. Furthermore, a lot of very high-profile actors are able to straddle the world of blockbusters and smaller projects with ease. That the directors are both willing and able to cast them shows an excellent attitude, and that many stars are more fully invested in that sort of film-making than the simple contribution of cameos (I'm thinking Clooney and Soderbergh's Section Eight, and the Stiller/Wilson/Vaughn/all-those-guys axis, for whom the distinction between quirky indie and mainstream comedy seems increasingly false) suggests that this won't be a brief phenomenon. (It's hard to say for sure - as we Brits share enough culture with you guys to not be truly 'foreign' - but I would question the article's assertion that small films aren't playing well abroad. Europe certainly seems to appreciate them - see Donnie Darko for an example. I think.) It is perhaps interesting - a positive or a negative sign, depending on your temperament, I suppose - that films like Todd Solondz' Palindromes, which is indie through-and-through, now merely looks juvenile and mean-spirited in its wilful alienation of the audience and its casual misanthropy. A talented film-maker, and an often brilliant film, but when compared to the liberating openness, lightly-worn intelligence and emotional honesty of an I ♥ Huckabees or Eternal Sunshine, it falls embarassingly short. But some years back, it would have been a highlight of the film calendar. It may also be a good or a bad thing that the genre now even has recognisable formulas of its own (self-link to a review I wrote) - I think it's good for a genre to get into the comfort zone for a while, but it won't be good for it to stay there too long...
  • While other countries have interpreted globalism as a chance to reveal their national psyches and circumstances through film, America is more interested in attracting the biggest possible international audience. American movie makers are interested in making money. Therefore, an movie that reveals the national psyche is one that rakes in huge piles of cash. This is not a surprising turn of events. However, as patia said, there are plenty of things from non-major studios that aren't just after money. And for more on this subject, read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
  • "this one time, we were all hanging out in my basement partying, and i had a handle of vot-ka, and nobody else wanted to drink vot-ka with me. but then mark came over, and he wanted to drink the vot-ka, and it made me really happy because i finally found somebody to drink vot-ka with."
  • I loved Mike.
  • An American movie can recognized by it having the exact same story line as all other American movies.
  • While most Hollywood studios are owned by American companies, Fox belongs to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Sony (obviously) to the Japanese conglomerate and the French Vivendi-Universal still owns 20% of NBC-Universal. These studios are only in it for the money, and saying it isn't very new or insightful. It is true that in the past, even majors had an interest in artful movies that would be remembered as works of art, not as historical curiosities. They gradually lost interest as they became parts of huge international conglomerates, and by the early nineties, art was mostly happening at 'indie' studios, the best example being Miramax. As some of these indie movies have proven, there is a way to make money on artistically challenging films. This, in turn, has turned the so-called indies (or indie-flavored divisions of majors) become money-hungry and to compromise. Does it matter? Not much. Directors, actors and writers play a game, where they often have to choose between artistic cred or moneymaking. Some talented ones will choose money over cred, and they'll be remembered as hacks. Others will choose cred and lose -- let's hope they have rich parents. But others still will win and become Woody Allen or Martin Scorcese.