Peter M Howard ::

On the Failure of Microbudgets

01Nov2010 [film]

Tucker Stone, in a review for Monsters subtitled The Failure of Microbudgets Continues, hits hard:

There's a hope in this country, probably the world, that the ease of digital production will break the backs of the behemoth movie studios. It's a hope propagated solely because there's a portion of the audience who, like those American Idol contestants who Just Don't Get It, think they've got something to say, and that something is better than those talentless fucks who get all the chances. Sure, you'll find others who say that the rest of the world is clamoring for these things as well, but it isn't true, don't believe it for a second. Audiences are fine with Pixar's fables, they're creaming their jeans for Christopher Nolan's sterility, they're packing stacks of cheddar for big budget sci-fi remakes of Dancing With Wolves. If they want individual works of art, unique, personal films--well, they've got plenty of those. Godard's still around. Haneke's got plenty of life left in him. The Criterion Collection is selling pillowcases. Besides, the dream on the horizon for our hopefuls isn't a sea of Slacker remakes (those are available as well, they just call it "film school" and "the Sundance Institute"), it's shit like Monsters, fan-fiction and a dream of remaking Die Hard, propelled by the belief that all it takes to make great genre is a wholly unwarranted belief in oneself and hilarious self-created "writing" schedules that involve lots of alarm clocks. It's the old LA joke gone viral--you're not a bartender, you're a screenwriter, wait until you see this buddy cop story. And while Monsters isn't responsible for any of that, it's an outgrowth of it, and that's why you're going to be hearing about this one for a couple of hot minutes when it finally hits theaters. Oh, the print critics won't praise it--five will get you ten that Armond White and Roger Ebert will team-up against this nonsense--but the wanna-bes will be out in droves. They don't have a choice. This is the kind of crap that's going to buy them the sandcastles of their dreams.

I don't entirely agree — the reason I'm interested in "the ease of digital production" is because it enables many more people to at least experiment with film-making, and it's enabling new types of storytelling. I'm under no illusions that the big studios are going to break, but it's at least possible that the next Godard or Haneke is out there playing with a digital camera and a cheap laptop. He's right, however, in the sense that all the hype we get every time one of these low-budget things comes out is tied to pipe dreams, and there's a bigger risk that the distributors stop putting money into them if their storytelling keeps turning out as weak as their production quality and they bomb in the market.

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