Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Ranking 2013’s Independent Films

The Esquire Theater in Denver, Colorado. Where I watched many of the films on this list, including Blue Jasmine.

I watched and will now rank 27 independent films that came out this year. I don’t expect to match this number until retirement absent a radical career change.

What’s an “independent film”? Defining the term is difficult. Wikipedia defines it as “a professional film production resulting in a feature film that is produced mostly or completely outside of the major film studio system [or] [by the indie] subsidiaries of major film studios [e.g. Fox Searchlight].”* That definition is good enough for me and I adopt it here.

*But why does it matter that a film is “independent”? There seem to be two prime reasons: (1) independence from major film studios — and, consequently, independence from the desires of the median viewer in the demographic the studio wants to attract — permits production of a broader range of content and (2) independent films generally have significantly lower budgets and accordingly have to make tough choices that major studio filmmakers don’t face. And a third reason for ranking purposes: outside of Los Angeles and New York City, most independent films play in different venues — independent theaters and arthouses — than major studio films and only a subset of filmgoers frequent these venues with any regularity. There surely is a bigger debate to be had on whether these reasons hold water and whether there’s a better way to define an independent film —- perhaps solely according to budget —- but I’ll save that for another day.

I missed a few of this year’s highly-acclaimed indie films (e.g. Blackfish, Wadjda, All is Lost) and I left off this list any film I saw that satisfied the above definition but received a lot of play in standard theaters (e.g. Twelve Years a Slave).

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Aught Lang Syne: A Bad Decade for Movies

Commercially speaking, the Aughts were an excellent decade for film. Even in poor economic conditions, box office records continued—and still continue as we speak—to be broken. Box Office Mojo’s list of highest grossing films is littered with movies from the Aughts. Much of this is due to inflation, of course, but even on an inflation-adjusted list of all films to pass $100 million in gross, 273 of 665 films—or 41%—come from this decade alone.

For those who make their living off of movies, then, there was plenty to be happy about in the Aughts. But for the audience, for those who like to watch daring and innovative films, the decade was surprisingly disappointing.

Of course, painting in such broad strokes is always a tricky game, particularly for something as ingrained and multi-faceted as film. Unlike television, cinema has been established as a medium for serious art since before I was even born, so the Aughts couldn’t really see a general creative leap of that sort. Unlike music, in which production costs are lower and output generally faster, film cannot experience the kind of rapid flourishing and integration of entire genres. Continue reading