Archive for 2014

Fritz the Cat

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Fritz the Cat has two versions: the original comic by Robert Crumb and one created by now legendary independent animator Ralph Bakshi. I’m going to review the later and save a review of Crumb, a documentary of the creator, a little later.

Fritz the Cat was only the second film to be give an “X” rating, the first film to have been given such an honor was Sweet Sweetback’s Badassssss Song. It was the first animated feature to have the “X” rating and is still the most successful independent animated feature of all time making nearly $200 million worldwide.

The movie starts out with a very common and very simple past time of any college student: trying to have sex. Our titular character sees a few good looking women walking down the street and does curry their favor not with any sort of talent (though he does attempt a guitar solo), but with a heavily acted self revelation of seeming complex ideas. This tongue in cheek approach to college culture is present throughout the film. One of my favorite scenes has the three aforementioned white girls circling around a black crow. Before he says a word the three white women begin lavishing him in hypocritical praise for being black. “I worked at head start last summer, for free! Black kids are so much more groovy.” “I’m taking a course on African studies in school, I had no idea your people were so civilized.” And, “Freud didn’t write for the black man.” College kids not really “getting it” is a heavy theme in Fritz the Cat.

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Crumb

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

In my other review I discuss Fritz the Cat, a Bakshi film based off of a comic by Robert Crumb. Now I review a documentary about the man fittingly titled Crumb.

Ralph Bakshi referred to Crumb as a “hustler” and stated that “He goes in so many directions that he’s hard to pin down. I spoke to him on the phone. We both had the same deal, five percent. They finally sent Crumb the money and not me. Crumb always gets what he wants, including that château of his in France. […] I have no respect for Crumb. Is he a good artist? Yes, if you want to do the same thing over and over. He should have been my best friend for what I did with Fritz the Cat. I drew a good picture, and we both made out fine.” As you can see, Robert Crumb is not particularly likeable. And Crumb follows Robert Crumb’s visit with figures from his history before he sells his journals to Sotheby’s to get that chateau in France.


And that’s exactly what you’re convinced of immediately in Crumb. The titular persona is asked about his artistic process and, immediately, gives a condescending, half-damning non-answer that makes you just want to punch the guy in the face. And the film goes on showing you how much of a jerk Robert Crumb really is. And that’s when the movie changes your opinion of Crumb, a scene of Crumb and his daughter playing, happy as can be.

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What is Independent Film

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Trying to define what indie films “are” is a similar endeavor to defining what art is. They have been used to describe so many different works that would otherwise have no communality that any formal definition has to be so vague that it is almost worthless. Though being outside the studio system does mean that the average budget is lower, the have been many indie films with budgets reaching the tens of millions. One could claim that it is just a case of working outside the influence of Hollywood, but that discounts those studio films that fit in with independent sensibilities. Not to mention the fact that the auteur theory was developed by people studying films from an era where it was virtually impossible to distribute outside one of the major studios.

In Michael Newman’s book Indie: An American Film Culture, he claims that understanding what it means to be “indie” can not be explained stylistically, thematically, or economically, but needs to be explained in terms of culture, and I’m inclined to agree. Although it is not necessarily always the case, often a film will be produced outside the major studios because they thought it would be too big of a risk to put money into a script. That could be for any number of reasons; the script could feature characters who would be disliked by the dominant culture, or contain messages that go against the values of the potential audience, or it might just be of poor quality.

Studios exist to make many above all else, and the risk of alienating a large section of their potential customer base would go against that goal. It is understandable, but inevitably leads to people feeling as though their voices are not being heard. Groups that have existed in the fringes of modern culture, such as homosexuals, thrived in the indie scenes due to its lower barrier to entry. Though they appealed to much smaller segments of the population, they did not need the broad appeal that studio films would need in order to make back its budget.

Define Independent Film

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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Reservoir Dogs: A Boys’ Club

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Much like in my review of Pulp Fiction, I expected nothing less from an early Quentin Tarantino film than a lot of violence and Reservoir Dogs does little to disappoint with its gangsters, shot outs, and high speed robbery. However, I find it somewhat lacking compared to his later film, Pulp Fiction. I believe that this is due to the fact that there is much less diversity in this film than the other, being made up of six white male characters, not unlike its mainstream counterparts. (more…)

Indie indie? Indie.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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Hope you guys enjoy it. Pretty strait forward. Also, watch it in HD.

Jessica Winter’s Top 50 Independent Films

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
The cover of Jessica Winters The Rough Guide to American Independent Film

The cover of Jessica Winter's "The Rough Guide to American Independent Film"

Of the two books that we are required to read, Jessica Winter’s “The Rough Guide to American Independent Film” (2006) lists what Winter’s to believe to be the top 50 films of the genre. It was our assignment on Thursday and Friday to read through that list in order to understand the range of films that have made an impact on the independent film community and know how they made influenced the industry.

The list goes as follows:

  • Bad Lieutenant
  • Before Sunrise
  • Before Sunset
  • Being John Malkovich
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Blood Simple
  • Boys Don’t Cry
  • Buffalo ’66
  • Citizen Ruth (more…)

“Pulp Fiction”: Burgers, Guns, and Many Expletives

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

(Warning: this post will include spoilers for those who have yet to see Pulp Fiction.)

As I sat down to watch Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Obviously, I know of the many midstream films that Tarantino has made since the release of his cult classic and the violence that was involved. When I mentioned that I would be reviewing this film, my family warned me that there would be a lot of gore and curse words being thrown around.

Needless to say, I was not surprised to see mass qualities of blood, guns, and drugs and hear a lot more expletives than I normally hear on an everyday basis. However, what I did not expect was the way that this filmed looked more like a modern blockbuster feature than what I would consider an independent film.

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What Independent Film is to me?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

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Is It Indie?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

There’s quite a bit of murkiness when it comes to pin-pointing exactly what makes an indie film indie. Michael Newman does a good job of attempting to crack the code or at least give us a good idea of the kinds of traditions that indie films are drawing from in his book Indie: an American Film Culture. He wants to say that we can’t really define it just in economic terms as some do, but rather, we should understand what it means to be indie in cultural terms. I think that, for the most part, Newman is correct in how he wants to define independent cinema, however, I think that he could have done more to address a problem with his claims. (more…)