Originality: Lost Art in Film
by Andy Adair
June 27, 2007
When was the last time a movie was truly original? From the Spider-Man franchise to Pirates of the Caribbean, from movies like the upcoming 30 Days of Night to films such as Lord of the Rings. So gone are the days of high grossing original films, and we are now slaves to the multi-million dollar remake industry. It is possible that The Matrix films are the last of their kind, a truly original masterpiece. Is it truly the end, however? Don't be fooled, because true movie gold is found on the small screens and art house theaters, for those are the films made with heart and soul.
We have been brainwashed by corporations and have been taken to a place where our entertainment is based on the best graphics, biggest explosions, and most money spent on advertising. Movies that gross so much for the first film will have the definite inevitability of a sequel. Older films that succeeded in their time will almost certainly have a remake, as seen by the examples of Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, 12 Angry Men, and the soon to be reborn Halloween franchise.
I am not saying that I despise or dislike these movies. I enjoyed Ocean's Eleven quite a bit, and the Spider-Man films are fantastic to be sure, and the Lord of the Rings films are some of my favorites. What I am saying however is that these movies are now eclipsing true originality in film. Films are now either remakes, based on a book or comic, or a sequel. Only once in a good while are films like Little Miss Sunshine discovered and widely released as it should be.
Why would anyone consider watching these independent films? Well, first, you will see something new and original (as I have stated repeatedly!). Secondly, many movie goers only get to see big-time actors in the CGI infested film which is clouded by explosions, extended chase scenes, and poor scripts. While giving the actors a chance to truly show there acting ability, independent films also give the viewer a chance to see each actor in a true, unbridled performance. These reasons should be enough to keep many interested in this genre for sure.
For any newcomer to the independent film scene, there would be two movies I would recommend starting with. Both are seen as larger market "indie" films, and it should help most ease into this genre. The first would be Garden State, written by, directed by, and starring Zach Braff ("Scrubs", The Last Kiss). This film is a great starter, and should provide most viewers with possible laughs, possible tears, and guaranteed insight into what the independent film scene is about. Another large market "indie" film to watch is Little Miss Sunshine. This movie was recognized for its brilliance by the Academy Awards in 2007 when it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin); and winning Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) and Best Original Screenplay (Michael Ardnt).
There are many other films to enjoy that are like the films listed above in the sense of their originality, but on their own merit for the same reasons. Here is a short list of recommendations that showcase not only originality but solid acting as well.
Lost in Translation (Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson( – A great starter and Murray's best film to date, takes place in Japan, and has an incredible story supported by great acting. Also nominated for Best Picture in 2004.
Donnie Darko (Starring Jake Gyllenhaal) – A pre-Brokeback film about a teen (Gyllenhaal) who begins to see a disturbing image that plagues him throughout the film. Many people have seen this film by now I'm sure, but if you haven't put it on your list!
Memento (Starring Guy Pierce and Carrie Anne Moss) – Incredible film directed by Chris Nolan (also of Batman Begins) about a man with short-term memory loss who tries to put together the pieces to solve the crime. This one is a definite.
Swingers (Starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn) – If you're a guy, you will enjoy this film, about a couple of LA guys living the life. It's a hilarious film, and a definite must see.
Dreamland (Starring Justin Long, Agnes Bruckner, and John Corbett) – I just recently watched this one and still think it deserves being mentioned here. Very good film that takes place in a small desert trailer park, a very well shot and original film to be sure. This is a light watch, yet still enjoyable.
There are plenty more to be seen, but these should get you started. And remember, I'm not saying that the big budget films of our time are bad in any way. What I am saying is that next time you are at your local movie store, maybe take a chance, watch something original, and in most cases, be ready for a great film. Who knows, you might actually become a fan yourself!