Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can't Find My Way Home

It's funny the way things pop into my head. I was driving to Target last night around 9:30 listening to the radio and "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith came on. It's a beautiful, haunting song and it always reminds me of what is probably one of my all time favorite movies (because it's in the movie.) It's a movie that got me all misty when I first saw it - a movie that has inspired and awed me - a movie that...

What is it? Hang on - I'll bet it's one that very few of you have heard of. It stars - are you ready - Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Sam Robards and was directed by Kevin Reynolds. It also stars Marvin J. Mc Intyre.

Now - before I give this one away - let me first point out that Kevin and Kevin are the pair responsible for Waterworld as well as Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.

Curious?

Here's another hint - it was produced by Amblin Entertainment - Steven Spielberg's company.

Give up?

It's called Fandango. And if you do anything else this weekend go out and rent this movie. You will be floored - well, that's if you're a guy. I think it's a guy film. Almost every guy I've ever watched this movie with gets blown away by it while the female reaction is somewhat more tepid.

Anyway - as I was driving along listening to Blind Faith, I kind of had a realization and it troubled me. Fandango is a movie we're unlikely to see again. That is to say, under our current tent-pole driven, multiplex-hogging studio system, it's a film we're unlikely to see again. It's stars were not really stars at the time (Judd Nelson had fallen from his Brat Pack high and Costner was an unknown.) It doesn't fall into an easily exploited genre and it's emotional rather that action-packed. So it's not a studio film. It isn't controversial and it isn't deeply introspective to the point of confusion so it's not one the indie players would likely grab hold of either. It probably would not play well on the festival circuit (though I think it would be an audience favorite) because most programmers wouldn't be attracted to it and it wouldn't get shown. Yet it is an emotionally powerful and uplifting film about a group of guys on the cusp of adulthood going to dig up a long lost "friend." It's the kind of film that anyone who sees it would say, "that's the kind of film I want to make." And yet today - it appears unmakeable.

And it occurred to me last night as I was driving in my car that maybe movies really are dying as an art form - as George Lucas has recently declared (though after the last three Star Wars "epics" I understand why he might think so.) But maybe not. Maybe - as I've said before - things are just changing.

I read an interesting article in Reason Online a few weeks ago about beer in America (Reason is a libertarian magazine - and for those of you who don't understand what that means, it's about free minds and free markets (something which I'm not really sure the movie industry is all about.)) Here's a quote from it - see if you can make the connection:

In 1980, good American beer was on the brink of extinction. Our most popular brands—Bud, Miller, Coors—were the laughingstocks of the world. Our brewing heritage had been all but stamped out, with hundreds of formerly thriving regional breweries gone. There were a few pockets of resistance, such as Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, but the days of decent American beer seemed to be over.

Sound familiar? The point of the article was that while the economies of scale had driven the small breweries out of business and beer into a bland, tasteless funk, there was still a taste - a desire - in this country for beer that was well made - for beer that had body and taste and quality and thus - the American micro brew explosion happened.

And so it occurred to me last night as I was listening to "Can't Find My Way Home" that we might be in those dark ages of post-prohibition America when beer was watery, tasteless and lacking substance. It occurred to me that we might be at the beginning of a microbrew - micro-film - explosion and I wondered where it would come from. Who would make the films is obvious but who would fund them, who would distribute them? Maybe YouTube is the answer, maybe it's a MySpace thing, maybe - just maybe - Apple will open up iTunes to people with little films to sell - to people like all those friends I made at film festivals with wonderful little films - the kinds of films that are seen by people - the kinds of films that cause them to say - now why don't they make films like these anymore?

3 comments:

Tim said...

Thanks for reminding me of Fandango. I haven't see that film in ages, but I'm going to add it to my Netflix queue right now.

Rick M said...

I've never seen Fandango, but I will definately check it out.

I fear that you may be right on two fronts here: the economies of scale have created a bland and homogenized tent-pole movie culture. Your micro-brew allegory may be correct as well, but to what end? Have we seen the end of quality feature length film? One big upside to the google acquisition of YouTube is that google video allows producers to charge to view videos. Google is also working on easy micro payments through google wallet. The convergence of these three sites may yet create a wonderful creative market for film, but nothing over ten minutes.

RJ said...

The Google acquisition of YouTube is great news. I have a feeling that 10 minute limit will change - they may put in different tiers of service - perhaps charging to host longer videos. Google is desperately searching for additional income streams (not that they really need it but their only income right now is from search and they want to add more) so I wouldn't be surprised to see that change.

I don't think the feature length movie is dead - at least that's my hope. Only time will tell but the long form drama has been around since at least the ancient Greeks.