25 février 2012

Forgotten Obsolete English Words #6 : Maverick

"Indie filmdom has long been a launchpad for Hollywood careers, but only a select few filmmakers can claim to have gone against the grain with enough force to change long-term trends.
From Spike Lee and Woody Allen’s takes on New York life to Stanley Kubrick and James Cameron’s new experiments with special effects, these ten directors topped our list of wave-makers and game-changers. Each of them showed the establishment how approach movies from new perspectives, and each one deserves to be called a maverick."
  1. Francis Ford Coppola
  2. Orson Welles
  3. Stanley Kubrick
  4. Martin Scorsese
  5. James Cameron
  6. Woody Allen
  7. Spike Lee
  8. Kathryn Bigelow
  9. Robert Redford
  10. Amy Heckerling

From Allen to Welles, we celebrate those cinema trailblazers (Brian Warmoth; IFC; 15 February 2012)
WTF? Is this what an "expert" on Independent American cinema believes? Yeah, each one of them deserves to be called "maverick" if you have no clue what that word means and if your knowledge of American cinema comes from watching The Oscars...

First, those who DO NOT deserve it (already 4 wasted spots in a Top10) :
  • James Cameron : when was he ever an indie filmmaker??? You're confusing "becoming bankable in Hollywood" and "going against the grain"! (spearheading 3D technology is no more a canonical high-mark for Cameron than it was for The Jazz Singer to pioneer talkies... it's a mere historiographic milestone)
  • Amy Heckerling : I confess I never heard of her... which brings me to my next point : how does she land on a top10 leaving so many deserving names out? Looking at her resume doesn't tell me she was ever an indie filmmaker nor a landmark in the history of revolutionary forms (if we are to understand "maverick" that way...)
  • Kathryn Bigelow : She only made heavily codified, formulaic genre movies, with big or medium budgets... And The Hurt Locker might be what Hollywood calls "indie" but it is not an actual indie in any way, shape or form.
  • Robert Redford : as a producer maybe (and for Sundance), not as a director though.
These guys aren't "mavericks" by world cinema's standards. Maybe "normal people" pass as "mavericks" in the land of Hollywood conservatives.

Secondly, those who are dead :
If you include dead ones, Welles and Kubrick are not enough... obviously. You wouldn't have enough spots left for the livings if you didn't exclude the deceased historical trailblazers! 
What about John Cassavetes, Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah, Dennis Hopper, Sidney Lumet, Barbara Loden, Hal Ashby, Philip Kaufman, Alan J. Pakula, Arthur Penn, Sydney Pollack, Don Siegel !!!
  • Orson Welles : was an indie after being an Hollywood outcast, only in Europe could he make films freely...
  • Stanley Kubrick (he only made films in the UK! because he was excluded by Hollywood) sure he had an influence on Hollywood genre movies, a posteriori, indirectly. But Hollywood is far from incorporating Kubrick's ways into their standard procedures. Hollywood is against director's cut, against independence of creation, against mavericks, against risk taking. See how much he is loved by current "film students" here 

Thirdly, New Hollywood :
You only remember Coppola (the only one of this generation who sold out to Hollywood studios and came back to indie filmmaking) and Scorsese (accessed Hollywood studios through his indie breakthrough and totally embraced Studios ways since 1985; look what influenced him : Classical Hollywood, Classical Hollywood and Classical Hollywood)?
What about : Peter Bogdanovich, Miloš Forman, Mike Nichols, Roman Polanski, Bob Rafelson, Paul Schrader, Terrence Malick, John Boorman, William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Michael Cimino, Steven Spielberg... Are they chopped liver? None of them are more deserving than Amy Heckerling????

Woody Allen. Yeah, maybe. He started as an indie, and he definitely created a style of his own that influenced American cinema. And he still kinda makes his films in the margin of Hollywood... but his celebrity allowed him to make Star-driven vehicles like everyone else in Hollywood. I don't think that the Woody Allen comedy type is "alternative" anymore nowadays, it's been swallowed and digested by Hollywood default storytelling. Trailblazer, yes, one of them. He's just the most exposed figurehead. But he's not one of the 10 most revolutionary "mavericks" who inflected Hollywood...

And finally, the recent generation :
Spike Lee is the only one to represent the new blood? Yes he's definitely deserving the celebration as a maverick, a trailblazer, a truly independent spirit (more so than half of the names on this half-assed Top10).
But what about all the others?
David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, Charles Brunett, Miranda July, Charlie Kaufman, Amos Kollek, Jonathan Nossiter, Todd Solondz, Steven Soderbergh, PT Anderson, Tom Dicillo,  Christopher Guest, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Michael Moore, Wes Anderson, Coen Bros, David Cronenberg, Alexander Payne, Robert Rodriguez, Frederick Wiseman, Errol Morris, John Waters... None of them deserve a spot over Amy Heckerling??? WTF?

"IFC [Independent Film Channel] creates and champions authentic, original content that is "Always On. Slightly Off." Since 1994, IFC has cultivated television programming that challenges the conventions of storytelling. Today, IFC continues to embrace content with an indie perspective. [..] IFC provides viewers access to must-see festivals and events around the country, like the Film Independent's Spirit Awards and SXSW. IFC.com features exclusive video, podcasts, blogs, news and reviews cultivated and written by industry experts."

Conclusion :
If you make any kind of authoritative list about cinema history, to educate your readers, make sure you did your homework first... or else, don't make it seem like you're providing an educational statement. And try to figure out what is actually "independent cinema" outside of the USA, you might reconsider what Hollywood tells you is "specialty division".
This is with a culture like this that the American population is stuck in ignorance and resistance to anything new, alternative, artistic... when you give them the wrong landmarks to look up to. There are better role models out there, and even within American cinema history... nevermind World cinema history.

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