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Indie films offer originality and escapism

In Business, crafts, Entertainment, Media, Movies, Opinion, Uncategorized on March 25, 2017 at 8:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

“The Movies are great medicine. Thank you Thomas Edison, for giving us the best years of our lives.” – The Statler Brothers

In 2010, I wrote one edition of Deer In Headlines that discussed how a good movie can transport you to a colorful land somewhere over the rainbow, show you what it means to have true grit or take you into the final frontier of space. At the movies, you can travel through time in a DeLorean, see pirate ships battle on the high seas or even visit a galaxy far, far away. But in the short time since my first, brief exploration on the subject of film, a lot has changed.

The first known film production ever recorded was a British piece called Roundhay Garden Scene, filmed in 1888 by inventor Louis Le Prince. When first introduced, people hardly took notice of motion pictures as they were more a science experiment in optics than an entertainment medium.

Shot at only 12 frames per second, on highly flammable celluloid plastic, that first grainy movie lasted a mere two seconds but pioneered what would become one of the most lucrative industries of the 20th Century and beyond. From silent features starring Douglas Fairbanks, to the first talkies, movies have a special place in the history of American culture.

Many lines from feature films have worked their way into our cultural dialect. Who can forget Sean Connery’s first delivery of, “Bond, James Bond,” or Roy Scheider’s astonished look as he calmly noted, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.” What about Clark Gable’s straight-forward parting line to Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a,” well, you know the rest of it.

Today, however, while I believe movies still offer a level of escapism, I don’t believe they’re as well done or memorable as in the past. There was a time when, whatever your taste, someone out there was making a movie just for you. For all of us there is that one, special movie or that single line of dialogue that we carry with us our whole lives, but it just doesn’t seem like the most recent generation of films have the same staying power.

One of the reasons, at least in my opinion, is Hollywood’s complete and total disregard for originality. Everything seems to be a reboot, either of a previously successful film franchise or television program. The best movie I’ve seen in a while was the “Lego Batman” animated film. It was entertaining, full of nostalgia, and just a fun movie. Oddly original too, despite its familiar characters and settings.

If you want originality today, you have to get away from the mainstream box office and explore the countless number of independent films being produced around the country. Distributed on a much smaller scale, indie films can offer the same escapism as the summer blockbusters, but usually with original stories told in a much more creative way.

Created by small production companies, and lacking the mind-blowing budgets afforded to mainstream movies, an indie film must be more solid at the story level, unable to depend on “whiz bang” special effects to keep audiences engaged. And they’re not really geared toward moviegoers with short attention spans. These films tend to be rich in storytelling and move more slowly.

Independently produced films are tough to find at your local multiplex, so you’ll have to scan local newspapers and event websites for listings. And if you’re a streamer, Netflix and Amazon Prime both have a great selection of indies, from romantic comedies to more dark features. You’ll have to read some reviews and get some background before choosing one because the titles are not always as descriptive as they could be.

So my advice is that if you want to see high quality movies with great storytelling and an emotional hook that really makes you feel and think, you’ll have to look outside Hollywood. Great, new films are still, and I was skeptical too. But indie films offer a great alternative to the unoriginal, one-dimensional movies now flooding the cinema. See you at the movies.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More atdeerinheadlines.com

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Why I’m done with Star Wars.

In Entertainment, Holiday, Media, Movies, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on December 28, 2015 at 9:58 am

 

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIf you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan, you’re not going to like what you’re about to read and that’s OK with me. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, you should probably stop reading right now because I will be giving away some major spoilers, and, subsequently the main reasons I’m done with the franchise.

I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan and it was always a part of my personal pop culture, just as it was for millions of others. But, The Force Awakens was so tragically disappointing that it has ended my interest in any future Star Wars movies with director J.J. Abrams at the helm.

In 2009, Abrams did little to endear himself to fans of CBS Paramount’s Star Trek franchise when he tossed the half-century-long story canon established by Gene Roddenberry in favor of his “alternate universe.”

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Gery’s 1978 Millennium Falcon toy space ship with a couple of the action figures from the 90s. Gery sold off a great portion of a vast 1970s era collection in 2005.

But, for Star Wars, I was willing to give him a chance and hold my opinions until seeing the movie. Sadly, my worst fears were realized and I simply do not understand why any true Star Wars fan likes this film.

However overblown the hype and merchandising, this “new” story is little more than a mashed up repeat of the original trilogy into one movie. At its core, The Force Awakens is the story of a wannabe Lightsaber jockey seduced by the dark side who adopts a Vader-esque breath mask and sets out to hunt down former teacher, Luke Skywalker.

His evil cohorts have build a space station (that looks like a moon) and blow up some important planets before being destroyed by a spunky pilot and his adorable robot. Does any of this seem familiar yet?

But wait, there’s more! The worst part of the story is that the bad guy is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and isn’t much more than a whining, 20-something, Darth Vader fan boy with daddy issues. He doesn’t even need the mask, popping off regularly throughout the movie!

Near the end of the film, he confronts Solo on a bridge and kills him to prove to his master how “evil” he has become. And that’s just about when I nearly walked out on this film. Killing off a beloved, long-lived character should be purposeful and respectful. Abrams’ blatant “murder” of Han Solo was anything but either. The word that comes to mind to describe it is, pointless.

As a writer, it’s hard for me to accept that a character like Solo was written to have survived everything we saw in the first three films just to be murdered in a moment of gullibility.

Rumor has it that this was the only way actor Harrison Ford would agree to return to Star Wars. If that’s the case, then the character’s death should have had meaning. But it didn’t.

Sadly, some great performances by the new cast, including the female lead, are overshadowed by the retread story line. I’m well aware that more than $1 billion in box office returns – not to mention a flurry of media praise – do not support my conclusions. But it won’t be the first time good box office returns had no real relationship to the quality of a film.

Personally, I believe this film travesty is just a way for director Abrams to leverage his control over Star Wars. He simply punched the fans in the face to reinforce that this is now his property and it will go how he wants it, fans and good writing not withstanding. But, money talks so you’re likely stuck with him for a while.

As talented as he may be, J.J. Abrams will never be a George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. No amount of lens flare will make up for the fact that he simply doesn’t care about these stories, the characters, or, more importantly, the fans.

All we can do is hope no one lets Abrams anywhere near Indiana Jones. Now excuse me, I need to go put the rest of my Star Wars collection on eBay. May the Force be with you.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com