Headline, August27, 2013

'''THIS -!! CRYING !!- SHAME'''

Then along came Miramax, which broke down the distinction between art films and commercial films, between the indies and Hollywood. By dint of aggressive marketing and distribution, Miramax took pictures such as sex, lies, and videotape out of the cities and into the hinterlands, where they reaped unprecedented profits.

After sex, lies.......came the Crying Game in 1992, which more than doubled its box office, and then, two years later, Pulp Fiction, the first Miramax picture to break $100 million. Still to come were the English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Good Will Hunting and Life is Beautiful.

And by this time it wasn't only Miramax that was turning the trick. There was The full Monty from Fox Searchlight, The Blair Witch Project from Artisan, and then Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon from Sony Pictures Classics and Traffic from USA, both of which broke $100 million. Suddenly, it wasn't a cottage industry anymore. Indie films still grossed less than their studio counterparts, but they cost less too, raising the prospect of unheard-of profits. The indie film business had come of age.

At first, the resulting rain of money seemed to be good for everyone. People who might otherwise have done something useful with their lives   -decoded the genome, say, or discovered a cure for AIDS  -managed to get their first films made and, if they were any good, their second and third too. 

A whole new generation of exceptionally talented US film-makers emerged in the late Eighties and Nineties, such as John Sayles, Spike Lee, the Coen brothers and Steven Soderbergh, and then a new wave that followed them; Quentin Tarantino , Neil LaBute (in the company of Men), Kevin Smith(Cleks), Allison Anders(Gas Food Lodging and on and on.

Whereas small business was once considered icing on the cake that had been baked in the art houses of the big cities, mall multiplexes have become primary targets for many indie films, which are tested and tested again just like their Hollywood brethren. As the competition got fiercer, the costs of doing business skyrocketed: bigger print ads, 

TV and more TV, more screens, and so on. Agents, too, realised that they could get a piece of the action, making millions by representing indie film-makers, and drove up the prices of the acquisitions.

The model that seemed to work best was in the high octane atmosphere was selling yourself to a major: Miramax was bought by Disney and the Mouse's endless supply of cash allowed Miramax owners the Weinstein brothers to make roadkill of the competition. But these days even big hits don't guarantee ever lasting happiness, and successful companies such as Artisan, Lion's Gate, and USA are milling about, looking for tractions.

And worse, the giants of the business have experienced the heady scent of mega-grosses, having apparently lost interest in the kind of small, cutting edge films that were their raison d' etre to begin with. As Nik Powell, who, along with Steve Woolley, ran the legendary Palace Pictures in the Eighties and then went on to head Scala Productions, says, these days ''the mini-major want the bigger budget, higher-profile pictures:

The Shakespeare in love, The English Patient. There is no real demand for lower-budget movies.''  Or as Happiness co-producer Ted Hope, a partner in New York Indie production company Good Machine, puts it, ''If you are like the people who came of age 10 years ago, when I started, if you are the new Hal Hartley or the new Todd Haynes, you can't get a foothold now. Rather than a greater number of voices, we're seeing voices wither.''

This doesn't mean, of course, that we'll never see a good indie film again, several leading lights of the Nineties generations are releasing new films every now and then. But it doesn't feel like the movement is suffering from a middle-aged spread and needs a short of adrenaline in its very heart.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of U.A.E See ya all on the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless : '' ! Hitting The High Notes ! ''

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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