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David Poland

By David Poland

Hot Button – The Indie Thing

There have been very good

12 Responses to “Hot Button – The Indie Thing”

  1. The Pope says:

    Aware that what I am about to type may read as utterly sycophantic, but at times like these I am reminded as to why I visit this website (and occasionally throw in some comments).
    Other sights mostly present and invite polemics and although this one presents those as well, right now, David you have something that is more considered.
    I agree: this really can’t be the end of the indies. Haven’t they been around since the beginning of cinema, via Griffith and UA and, although they faded considerably in the 30s, after the war, the Anti-trust laws ensured that they rose again. The studio breakdown in the sixties paved the way for the indies and then, just when the blockbuster seemed to have put them in a pool and drowned them in concrete, along came Jarmusch and sex, lies.
    But seriously, the argument is a bit tiresome and silly at this stage. Ever since someone I think it was Robert Evans who asked independent of what… people have been banging the drum. No one is independent. The money comes from somewhere. And eventually it can be traced back to or through Rupert… or Reliance… or Riyadh…
    I think it comes down to whether a filmmaker has secured a space for themselves in which they can be CREATIVELY independent… i.e., where their film is more a product of their collaboration with fellow artists … or whether the film is a result of meddling.

  2. T. Holly says:

    The studios should have been purchasing the exhibitors all along. Now it’s distributors stangleholding the film business instead of the studios working with independents to mutually seed theatres. There are so many ways to put bundle butts in seats and none of them are available except the worldwide tentpole strategy.

  3. mutinyco says:

    I dunno about you, but I’m in the mood for some soft Corinthian Leather!

  4. T. Holly says:

    Make that “bundle butts” not “put bundle butts” — and tentpoles include Mamma Mia! which will perform somewhere between Pretty Woman and Titanic.

  5. Chucky in Jersey says:

    It’s not being promoted as a tentpole. A movie that aims older and/or upmarket can hardly be considered a tentpole.
    T.H is on to something about working “to mutually seed theaters”. The Bollywood circuit is an excellent example. Other ethnic titles like “Under the Same Moon” prove this true.

  6. Roman says:

    Does this mean that ABBA is now bigger than the Beatles (Across the Universe)?
    And no, I’m only being quarter serious.

  7. T. Holly says:

    Sorry Dave, but your people need to be schooled.
    No one mentioned US. v. Paramount 1948. It’s ok to own a tv network but not a movie theatre. That rule outlived its usefullness. Exhibitors… I got no words for you.

  8. Direwolf says:

    From my Wall Street perspective this is an exceptionally good piece. Well done, DP.
    As you were discussing the number of releases and screens, one thing I thought you might mention is the massive number of screens the weekly blockbusters occupy. That is screens not theatres.
    Do you think that opening a preordained blockbuster on several screens per multiplex has contributed to tough times for indies as those screens are lost as outlets?

  9. doug r says:

    I was listening to Adam Carolla talk about The Hammer. They spent close to a million bucks, including IIRC about $15,000 a print for about 35 prints. They ended up grossing about $445,000. They should break even on DVD-but why is it so hard for a picture that is aparently “surprisingly good” (I wouldn’t know, because I never got a chance to see it) to get distributed.

  10. Roman, I’d suggest that jukebox musicals are bigger than phychadelic throwbacks (successful or not)

  11. and by “successful” i mean “good quality” and “well made”.

  12. Chucky in Jersey says:

    The 1948 consent decree was relaxed by the Reagan government in the 80’s. As a result Columbia Pictures was able to buy into Loews Theatres. More recently National Amusements used its Viacom division to buy Paramount.
    As to blockbusters freezing out indies in a megaplex? In a recession most megaplexes (16+ screens) are gonna stay with mainstream fare, period.

The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin