GUEST POST: the pointless war between mainstream & indie films

 SEYI ODUSANYA  –  19 years old, studies Film Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, UK and obviously, a film connoisseur. This week, he dives, peers and questions the war between the mainstream blockbusters and the indie films.

Is it that time for an article again? Damn I was just about to get some Frosties, oh well. Okay so this week I’ve decided to take a look at the rather pointless debate between mainstream films and anti-mainstream films, or Hollywood cinema and indie cinema, or conventional cinema and avant garde cinema or… look you get the point. If you’re a bit of a film buff or interested in learning about films in some way, you’ll notice there seems to be some sort of battle going on about which type of cinema is better. In fact if you’re a film student like me, you’ll be hearing someone state why conventional cinema is a dead horse with the same ideas being rehashed over and over again and why indie cinema is so great; trust me this will happen. Frequently.

Also if you’re like me you’ll feel like you’ll have to pick a side; I was weighing the pros and cons of each type of cinema to see which one is good and which one isn’t.

But you know what, after a while I realised that this is rather pointless. Why should one side be better than the other? Can’t they both be good? Can’t they both be bad? Well they really are. There really isn’t a superior amongst the two at all. Both sides have their merits and faults. So why the hell does this battle exist in the first place? Well to truly answer that I’d have to delve into man’s need for conflict and that’d be a bit much, so I’ll just state my reasons why people should stop arguing and chill out.


The Smug Art House Extremist

All right I can say without a doubt you will meet people like this, be they your teachers or your peers. These are the people who believe that their love of art house films makes them intellectually superior to those who don’t. These aren’t the ‘’I prefer indie films’’ kind of people, these are the ‘indie films are better because it’s art and if you don’t appreciate that, you’re an idiot’’ kind of people. These people are eager to dismiss your opinions because it goes against their own and it’s pointless. Don’t look down on me because I didn’t fall in love with Gerry and don’t tell me that I didn’t get it. I got it and it was boring, nothing but Matt Damon and Casey Affleck walking in a desert for two hours!

These people like indie films because they get a sense of credibility from it. It makes them feel like they’re special and what they say matters more than you. It’s this kind of snobbery that really irks me and it gives art house cinema a bad name. But this smug git isn’t the sole reason why this mainstream vs. indie debate is silly.

Not all art is good.
There I said it! Art can be cool, or it can be really stupid. Like conventional cinema, films outside the mainstream do indeed have their hits and misses. There are some truly wonderful films like Persepolis, an animated film that tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up during pre and post revolution Iran.

The film looks at how this period of change affected the lives of the Iranians, but at its core, it is a pretty cool coming of age story about a girl coming to terms with who she is and her national identity. Nice stuff. I really like this film because not only is it well animated and has a nice visual style to it, but more importantly because it has a good story and interesting characters that I care about, which is really all I want from a film. It is a really good film and that’s what should matter, mainstream or not. But like all types of cinema, there’s good stuff, and there’s the really bad stuff.

Gerry. Bloody GERRY! I bring this up again because really this sums up my case. This film is about two guys who get lost in the desert. That is all. Nothing happens, for two hours. This film has got no characters; they aren’t developed at all. They call themselves Gerry, okay that’s fine. Is there anything about these characters that I should know, maybe some back story or something? Nope. Is stuff revealed about them during the dialogue? Nope, these dudes hardly say a word. Is it somewhat interesting in anyway? No; not in the least.

This film is literally two hours of Matt Damon and Casey Affleck walking in the desert, they don’t talk so we never get to know them, and nothing really ever happens. Well that’s not true, Casey Affleck gets stuck on top of a rock at some point and we get 10 minutes of Casey trying to get down. For people in a potentially dangerous situation there is no tension, no drama; nothing. Just two hours of pure boredom.

You can say that this film has deeper meanings; why are both characters called Gerry? Is that their real names? Is it real? Are both characters actually real? Is Casey Affleck’s Gerry the feminine side of Matt’s Gerry? Are they two personality of one person called Gerry? All these possible questions about this films hidden meaning can be asked. Well you know what? I do not care. I don’t care if it has interesting themes or hidden meanings. I don’t care if the director set out to provide a realistic experience of getting lost in the desert, I don’t care if I’m supposed to feel a sense of dread because that’s what the characters feel. This does not make for an interesting film, art or not.

Don’t mention Michael Bay though….

I guess all I have left to say is that there really isn’t any reason to pick one over the other because really one isn’t better than the other. Yes people are very jaded when it comes to Hollywood films (with good reason) but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss everything that it makes as explosions ,explosions and explosions (unless it’s a Michael Bay film of course). There is no reason to make such generalisations about these types of films just because they adhere to certain conventions. It doesn’t ultimately determine a films quality.

There are a lot of films out there – old and new – that follow pre-established conventions such as superhero films. Okay you can pretty much guess what kind of events will take place or what archetypes will be present does it make it poor quality? Captain America, X-men, Iron Man follow very standard conventions of the superhero genre (hero, villain, love interest, big fight scene etc) and these films are still really good and enjoyable.

I won’t say that everything in conventional cinema is a masterpiece (we all know this) and the same goes for unconventional films as well. Just being unconventional shouldn’t give a film a pass for not being a good film. If it’s not good, it’s not good, art or otherwise.


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