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The Independent Rebellion

Dateline: 7/11/99

The entire galaxy has been taken over by the evil Empire. But there is hope: from their secret hideouts on out-of-the-way planets, a small, wily band of rebels is fighting to defend freedom and individuality. No, I'm not talking about Star Wars, I'm talking about the battle against the movie industry that rules the silver screens of the world from the center of their power--no, not Coruscant, Hollywood.

At least since Reservoir Dogs, El Mariachi, and The English Patient, the last blockbuster junkie knows about the Independent Rebellion, ehm, Revolution, and last year, movies produced outside the Hollywood studio system accounted for no less than 12% of the annual income of the film industry. And when Roberto Benini jumped over the chairs at the Academy Awards to grab his Oscar, he showed the world that foreign movies aren't just for turtle necked art house visitors anymore. Anybody bored with the same old formula flicks churned out by the major studios or all The Phantom Menace hype knows to turn to indies or world movies for intelligent storytelling, honest emotions, creative film making and visual excitement.

But of course you already know all that, or you wouldn't be reading this.

What's less obvious is where to draw the line: can you really call Shakespeare in Love, with its star power and Tom Stoppard script, an independent movie? It's 1999, and all major studios have independent subsidiaries (Fox Searchlight, New Line Cinema, TriStar). Miramax is owned by whom? That's right, by Disney, not exactly what I would call an underground fly-by-night operation.

In other words, the lines have been blurred, and from the indie camp, you can hear the detractors moan. "Not an indie!" they complain. "Not an indie!" A friend of mine keeps telling me that it's just like "alternative" rock-- not really an alternative at all since it's produced and hyped with nearly the same budgets as the mainstream fare. "Real" indie directors can be heard complaining how you can't get a small movie distributed unless you have at least one major name, say Christina Ricci, Parker Posie, James Woods, or Gwyneth Paltrow. To them, the success indies and foreign movies have been enjoying recently is a curse.

I have a lot of sympathy for the small and smallest movie makers out there, but - come on. Why is it that whenever somebody enjoys success, the mob shouts "sell-out?" I'm a moviegoer, and as a moviegoer, I want to see more smart, creative, exciting, new movies that break the boring old Hollywood mold. If it's Disney's Miramax that brings me such delights as Rushmore or Waking Ned Devine, then I say more power to them. After all, my favorite American movie this year to date, Election is an MTV production. Go figure...

What counts for me is the opportunity to see good, inventive, interesting movies-and if it is Disney who delivers them, more power to them.

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