Independent's Day (1998)
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Critic Reviews for Independent's Day
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Solid documentary with good interviews
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Audience Reviews for Independent's Day
Out-of-Date but Interesting It's odd to look at some of the dated stuff here. For example, Kevin Smith is one of the filmmakers interviewed; he informs us that he has just made a film about a guy who fell in love with a lesbian. He'd already done two of his iconic films--[i]Clerks[/i] and [i]Mallrats[/i], meaning he was a touch above a lot of the other people shown. However, he wasn't considered as important as Steven Soderbergh, even though Soderbergh's most well-known work was yet to come. Bryan Singer, fresh from [i]The Usual Suspects[/i], gets a fair amount of attention, but aside from the first two X-Men movies, he hasn't really done much more with his promise. I admit that it's hard to predict who'll be the Next Big Thing, and of course [i]Usual Suspects[/i] was a much bigger deal than [i]Mallrats[/i], and it's true that to this day, Soderbergh is considered better respected, and Singer commands bigger budgets. I'm just saying. Oh, and another thing--Roger Ebert could talk and Sidney Pollack was alive. So there's that, too. Robert Redford, among others, started the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City in 1978 as a way to encourage filmmakers operating outside the Hollywood system. At the time, there weren't a lot of venues for these kinds of films, and Hollywood reacted accordingly, seeing it as a place to find new filmmakers and encourage them. In 1981, it moved to Park City, and slowly, it became this enormous commercial thing. By 1998, some 800 films were submitted to compete for 18 official slots in the festival. More than a few of those films would go on to be famous, some even unto the point of Oscar wins--[i]Little Miss Sunshine[/i] was a Sundance film. However, it's become a nightmare for Park City residents, there aren't enough spots to let all the films that deserve it shine--though Roger Ebert rightly points out that not all films that get made deserve to be shown--and on and on. It's still considered a good thing, generally speaking, and certainly independent film is essentially a necessary part of the system, but an argument can be made that Sundance has grown beyond its usefulness. Most striking, I think, is the Park City resident, Tressa Von Bargen, a young woman who works in a bookstore, who talks about the attitude attendees have toward the town and its residents. They are pushy, cheap, and rude, she tells us. It seems likely that the town makes a huge portion of its tourist money during the festival, but she says that locals look at the calendar and dread January. She also, I note, does not seem to be making a distinction between the Hollywood people and the independent people. She says it takes the worst of New York and the worst of Hollywood and inflicts it on Park City. I've no doubt that there are people who are kind, courteous, and even generous, but enough are not that I think it must be hard on the locals. Several others are shown talking about the dreadful sense of entitlement some of these people seem to have--William Morris demanding a table in a local restaurant every night of the festival at the same time. Probably the same table, at that. As more and more people compete for fewer and fewer spots, sub-festivals outside the Sundance system are created. The experience gets broader and broader, and it's probably only gotten wider since then. Film festivals have spread across the country, which is a good thing--but if your film has been screened at one, it's not eligible for Sundance. (Unless, apparently, it's at the Toronto one--Canada doesn't count, it turns out.) As the responsive "Slamdance" festival filled, the "Slumdance" was created--complete with offering free hot soup! Several of those interviewed came up with a list of names for the lesser festivals to follow to be called, including Roger Ebert's using a word he assuredly did not use on the show. (Slumdance's website declares the festival to have been closed for over a decade. One wonders if something has taken its place.) Then again, as a broader film festival movement spreads, perhaps there isn't anything needed to create more venues in Park City. It is the dream of every independent filmmaker to suddenly make it big, for preference at a big festival--like, for example, Sundance! There are the stories. Robert Rodriguez is probably a name passed like currency--the maxing out of credit cards (something more than one person in the film advises against, all things considered), the sudden, enormous success. Soderbergh and Singer. Smith. Tarantino. Edward Burns. The thousands of people who don't make it, of course, are not such currency--did you know [i]Saw[/i] was a Sundance movie? Any film could be the next [i]Saw[/i]! I do understand the dream. I hold out a vague hope, myself, that someone in some position where they can do me some good will notice the better of my reviews and offer me a job where they'll pay me cash money for writing them. However, when someone suggests I should seek it out, I am rather practical about it. Newspapers are laying off film critics, in part because of people like me. And there are not enough spaces in the theatre for all the films that get made, whether they're worth watching or not.
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