Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Archive for May, 2012

It’s Not All About You: How the Internet is Like a Bad Indie Film

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 6, 2012

So, a few nights ago I was watching this indie movie called Multiple Sarcasms. You may not have heard of it, and I wouldn’t blame you. It’s one of those films that sat on the shelf for a few years before getting a very limited release and then finally finding its way to DVD. I probably wouldn’t even talk about this movie at all, except that it brings me to a larger point that I will eventually get to, I promise. I watch a lot of movies, obviously, and sometimes I’ll give something a chance just because I like the actors in it, even if it doesn’t sound like something I would normally enjoy. The cast here is full of actors I really like – Timothy Hutton, Mira Sorvino, Dana Delany, Stockard Channing, even Mario Van Peebles! So I gave it a shot.

It’s a pretty awful movie, not because the acting is bad (it isn’t) or it’s technically incompetent (it’s not) – it’s a bad movie simply because we’re given no reason to care about the lead character and his plight (or lack thereof). Hutton’s character is a guy who basically has it all – a beautiful wife (Delany), a hot and funny best friend (Sorvino), a great daughter, a solid and well-paying career as an architect. People would kill to have this man’s life. But he’s not happy. Why? No particular reason. He’s not happy because he’s a navel-gazing douche who can’t appreciate how good he has it. If he were suffering from a mental illness or some sort of disease, maybe we would understand why he would want to re-evaluate and shake up his life. But no, he’s just a dumbass who is so discontented that he has to write a play about how bored with life he is, as if anyone wants to see that. The play is called Multiple Sarcasms, and is even more annoying than the movie. Oh, and for some reason the story is set in 1979, which gives Hutton the opportunity to go to multiple screenings of Starting Over. Which only makes us wish we were watching that too.


So the big question here is, who fucking cares?? This isn’t a movie – it’s a pity party on film for a guy who doesn’t need or deserve one. It’s not funny, entertaining or interesting in any way. It does tell a story, just not one that holds any interest for anyone who wasn’t involved in the making of the film. I’m just guessing here, but I would wager that writer-director Brooks Branch (the most unlikely name for a filmmaker ever) based this on his own personal life. Otherwise, why even tell this story in the first place? And hey, good for him – he got his movie made. I just don’t understand why he thought anyone else would want to watch it. This is an epidemic that seems to have invaded indie film lately – the idea that a story doesn’t have to actually be interesting to be worth putting on film. The whole “mumblecore” movement has perpetuated the notion that you can just put anything you want on the screen, no matter how boring or rambling or self-involved, and not only will people watch it, they should watch it. I strongly disagree. The audience needs a reason to care. If you don’t give them that, they have no reason to watch your film. Period.

I’m not here to dump on indie film in general – I happen to love indie film. Many of my favorite films are indies. I have total respect for anyone who can get their film made and shown in what amounts to a very limited market. That’s why I give movies like Multiple Sarcasms a chance. I just think it’s reached a point where a lot of indie film (not all) is just self-absorbed nonsense passing as “Important Art”, and that makes me sad as an audience member. I remember when indie film was vital and exciting and brilliant, when new voices were being heard and they were making the kinds of movies Hollywood wouldn’t touch. And yes, there are still indie films like that being made. But mostly what’s on the screen these days is a bunch of annoying hipsters whining about their relationships. Who cares? I’m at the point where I’d rather watch Jason Statham punch people in the face. At least there’s something actually happening in those movies.

Here’s a tip, indie filmmakers: just because something happened to YOU doesn’t mean it’s interesting to watch. I wouldn’t put my life story on film and expect people to watch it – why would you? Tell us a story. Show us something interesting. Make us laugh, cry and feel something. Put a little effort into it. I know a lot of indie filmmakers worship Woody Allen (and rightfully so), but they don’t seem to learn anything from his work. Woody Allen’s films (generally) are funny and entertaining, with fascinating characters and inventive stories, extremely witty dialogue, excellent acting, and best of all, they’re actually about something. If you’re going to emulate Woody, emulate those aspects. If you think you have something to say, say it in an entertaining way. Don’t just bash the audience over the head – sneak up on them and make them think when they’re not expecting it. Honestly, satirical films like Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop and Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2 have changed more minds than a million sad, serious slogs. If you want to make a point, entertain the audience first. Don’t just bitch and whine for 80 minutes. And really, no one cares about your breakup, your divorce or your gay experiment in college. Unless there’s a really interesting story to tell (and you’ve told that story to at least 2 other people who found it fascinating), keep it to yourselves.

But after suffering through Multiple Sarcasms, I couldn’t help but think that maybe in some strange way, it actually is reflective of our self-absorbed culture. Thanks to the internet, we live in a time when everyone seems to think their opinion is the only one that’s valid and their story is the only one worth telling. Bad news, folks – no one cares what you think. Seriously. I know that sounds odd coming from someone who writes a blog, granted. But I only write when I feel I really have something to say that no one else is saying. It’s not about boosting my ego or tearing other people down. If it sometimes comes off that way, it’s not my intention. I generally write to celebrate the things that I love (this post being the exception, obviously), not to spout hate. But too many people online just seem to talk just to hear themselves talk – whether the subject is politics, religion, gender issues or even movies, it’s all just an excuse to spout off. Very few message board or talkback commenters seem to ask themselves whether they’re saying something worth hearing. I don’t understand the need to start arguments all the time, or to push people’s buttons for the sake of it. What’s the point? I’m not trying to discourage genuine debate – I’m saying we don’t have to debate every fucking thing, all the fucking time. We believe what we believe, and that’s not going to change. Pissing people off for no reason just makes your side seem like the bigger assholes. And no one feels the need to actually back up their opinions with facts or even knowledge – it’s as if just because you think something, that makes it true in the actual world.That’s not the way it works! If your opinions are ill-informed, why should anyone want to read them, much less respond to them? You’re just wasting your time and ours.

It just amazes me that it never seems to occur to people that maybe, just maybe, they’re not the only person in the world and that maybe their opinions are just that – opinions. Opinions are not facts. Never have been, never will be. You can argue about stuff until the end of time, and it’s not going to change a damn thing. So why bother? Why not think before you write or post something, “does anyone really care? Is this interesting to anyone? Am I just talking to hear myself talk, or do I actually have something to say worth hearing?” I ask myself those questions before every post here – and there have been times I haven’t written things I was thinking about because I just don’t think it’s interesting enough to put up for public consumption. Sometimes I think the best thing is to keep it to myself, and I wish more people would think that way. That’s how you wind up with movies like Multiple Sarcasms, and that’s how you wind up with an internet full of pissed-off people arguing over nothing. ENOUGH ALREADY. It’s just fucking boring.

And yes, all of this is just my opinion. Which you can take or leave as you choose. And have a nice day.

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