Hot on the heels of Thor Ragnarok and Justice League, I've started to examine the types of movies I find myself going to see. While both of these movies were "fun", I had my own personal issues with pieces of their execution. Whether it was poor writing, underdeveloped characters, or an over-abundance of forced comedy, I had a good time, but left the theater feeling like something was missing or lost in the experience.
Way back in the 90's, independent cinema took me in its grip. The experimentation and nuance of of films like "Living In Oblivion", "Clerks" and "Reservoir Dogs" left me stunned, intrigued and sometimes crying tears of laughter and sadness. I was thirsty for more and started searching it out everywhere I could find it, which led to the discovery of older films I'd missed out on like "Blue Velvet" and newly released works (at the time) like "Being John Malkovich".
These movies opened my eyes to more personal character experiences, sharper, smarter dialogue, the use of music (outside of big radio hits) to drive the narrative, and exposed a darkness that put Freddy Kreuger to shame. Somewhere in the last few years, they lost my attention a bit. Every writer is clamoring for the next big thing that will make a billion dollars, but in many cases there are sacrifices to make these types of films or comics or books.
While there are plenty of cases where a big blockbuster still had an emotional impact, ("Wonder Woman" did this for me in places and "Guardians of the Galaxy" is another great example), I've found myself less and less interested in these types of movies lately. It's started to feel like a machine is churning them out. Eyes glued to the CGI magic and spectacle, while my heart goes untouched or my thoughts aren't challenged.
I'm using a lot of super hero movies as examples, because by and large, that's what I'm more apt to venture out of my house for. The turn around time for DVD or streaming is so short these days, it has to feel like something I want to experience in the theater, (despite the odds that I may have to deal with rude audience members, crying babies or someone kicking my seat). Which brings me to another point - I'll be 40 next year and the types of things that I'm interested in at my age are generally meant for younger audiences too. The studios attempts to make them approachable for those audiences, in some ways, can hurt the film for someone my age, while 12 year olds applaud and giggle.
Take a movie like "Memento", which experimented with both style and structure in an effort to keep the audience on their toes as they walk through the story's mystery alongside the main character. (I'm being vague, so if you've never seen it, check it out.) I want that challenge back. Smart books and films that make me think and feel, even if that feeling is confusion up to the conclusion.
As I started down my own creative path, my drive to do something different or personal waned as I saw book after book rejected by publishers. I don't feel I ever truly stopped writing stories that interested me, but I certainly started working on projects that had a broader appeal and perhaps got lost in the reason that I write and create, which led to its own set of problems. As I mentioned in a previous blog on FEAR, it's about writing and creating for yourself, progressing, overcoming obstacles and finding your own sense of pride in your work.
And so, I've realized that it's time to get back to this. Supporting independent cinema or comics doesn't guarantee that you'll have a great experience - these things are just as likely to be as bad as anything else - but in most cases, there's more of a chance to get something authentic from the writer, director, cast, etc. Something closer and truer to the creator's vision, and that can be a powerful thing, effecting you in ways you hadn't considered. For my own writing, these things are inspirational. We all want something that we create to have an impact on a reader or movie-goer and the question is - are you up for the task of finding someone who wants a story that challenges them?
There's nothing wrong with a popcorn movie and I'll be at the first showing of "The Last Jedi" with everyone else, but hoping it has the hearts and smarts that fans deserve.
What was the last independent film you watched or comic book you read?
What are some of your favorites?
Thanks for reading!