Feb 1, 2010

Another blast on the horn from Manohla Blahnik!

Readers of the New York Times have barely recovered from Manohla Blahnik's last enthusiastic bout of futurology — courtesy of Avatar? 3D? Digital cameras? I can't quite remember now, such was the prismatic dance she enacted — when she hits us with another. This one is entitled "Talking about Revolution (For Digital Age)" and concerns the "seismic changes" currently rocking the independent film industry — bigger even than the seismic changes of 1993 (?) apparently and worthy of comparison with the biggie of 1960, when the New American Cinema Group advised, “It is time to blow the whole thing up!” Can't wait. Viva la revolution! So what's up, Manolo?
Novice filmmakers and longtime independent insiders have begun experimenting, and finding some success, with new approaches to releasing movies, including self-distribution. The D.I.Y. world isn’t new, but what is novel is how filmmakers and other industry insiders are sharing their nuts-and-bolts experiences and blue-sky ideas both in person and online, creating a virtual infrastructure.
Translation: they're using Facebook. That's it. That's the story. Before you can snipe that this is just another journalist using social networking to jazz up a vaporous think-piece, think again.
Filmmakers who use Facebook to sell their movies aren’t simply partaking in a social-networking fad; they are trying to create a more complex, interactive and personalized relationship between them and their audiences.
Pour example?

Independent filmmakers now show up at some of their screenings in person. Last August, for instance, the young filmmaker Andrew Bujalski appeared at the decidedly low-key Los Angeles premiere of his latest, “Beeswax,” at the Nuart Theater, one of that city’s single-screen art-house theaters. Before the movie began, he chatted amiably with filmgoers in the theater lobby, not far from the concession stand. Along with his producers, he also introduced the movie and, when it was over, stayed to take questions from an audience that now had a sense of the man to go along with his director’s credit.

You've got. To be. Kidding me. Please tell me that Blanolik hasn't summoned a Cassandra-like prognostication of industry-wide revolution from a story about an audience Q & A at a single-screen cinema in downtown LA? How futuristic is that? Some bloke showed up at a cinema to talk about his movie? That happens all the time. That's called turning up — the opposite of Facebook. I thought the interwebs were supposed to signify terrifying chrome reflections of our own anomie and alienation in an impersonal digitised age. But let's not be too hasty. Apparently, at the Sundance Film Festival this year, some cinema owners got together to discuss their “hair problem” — meaning, an aging clientele that’s either gray or going bald.

the producer Ted Hope, whose recent titles include “Adventureland,” wrote that it “is really surprising how few true indie films speak to a youth audience.” He continued, “In this country we’ve had Kevin Smith and ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ but nothing that was youth and also truly on the art spectrum like ‘Run Lola Run’ or the French New Wave (‘Paranormal Activity’ not withstanding...),” adding: “Are we incapable of making the spirited yet formal work that defines a lot of alternative rock and roll? And if so, why is that?”

All blood flow to the head now firmly blocked, this story is losing consciousness by the second. Far from amassing evidence of a new spirit of revolution surging through the land, Blahblahnik has, incredibly, amassed evidence of the exact opposite: the non-existence of any such thing. Still, never mind.

Younger audiences might not be more active moviegoers than their grandparents (watching a film is never a passive experience), but they live in an interactive, media-saturated world.

Exciting! Anything else?

This year’s Sundance was abuzz about entries that were available for rental on YouTube or through video on demand during the festival, as filmmakers try out new ways to make an impact. These small-screen efforts have met with skepticism even while reaping the expected publicity, because it’s unclear how they might affect a movie’s distribution chances post-festival. Now, as the independent cinema nurses its Hollywood hangover, the future remains unclear even as one message is getting louder: It is time to blow the whole thing up.
As a piece of horseshit, meaning all things to all men and nothing to anyone, that last sentence is unimprovable.


  1. "The future will be different. Maybe. Actually, it might be more like the past. Possibly."

    She's the worst. Has been for some time, but her credibility--as a critic and, especially, as a prognosticator--really has sunk to a new low these past few months.

  2. "What's up, Manolo?" had me laughing so hard I had to wipe away tears to read the rest. I don't suppose her "futuristic" piece could be a deadpan parody of a futuristic piece? I don't normally read the Times, so it's hard to tell the difference.