Culture and Society – still very relevant today!

I’m revisiting Raymond Williams’ classic text Culture and Society, first published in 1958, as part of background research for my next project. It’s a very useful source on the context in which our contemporary notions of ‘art’, ‘creativity’, ‘genius’ and the like were established. Lots that’s hugely relevant today to discourses around indie film – and ‘art’ cinema more generally – and the ways in which these are distinguished from mainstream Hollywood. I particularly liked one part where he’s writing about notions of the Romantic artist, in which he cites one source from 1759 who distinguishes between the ‘original work’ (characterised as of a ‘vegetable’ nature, rising spontaneous from the root of genius) and imitations that are ‘manufactured’ out of ‘pre-existent materials’. This (part of a broader contemporary discourse of oppositions between the ‘organic’ and the ‘mechanical’) applies very neatly to something I’m working on about distinctions between mainstream Hollywood and ‘quality’ films – the latter tending often to be associated with notions of originality, creativity and (sometimes) genius, while the concept of its opposite being denigrated on the basis of being made out of ‘pre-existent’ materials seems to apply so well to the cultural standing of the typical contemporary pre-sold blockbuster franchise. Plus ça change, as they say…

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Free online screenings lead to sales

Nice example of how free screenings online can be used as part of an indie campaign leading to successful sales on DVD (and in this case recipe books!) in case of the documentary Hungry for Change, a critique of the weight-loss industry. Details from indie consultant Peter Broderick. An interesting instance more generally of contemporary web strategies, including the provision of extracts in advance of the full screening. I write about more of this kind of thing in my forthcoming Indie 2.0: Change and Continuity in Contemporary American Indie Film, due out later in the year.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom seems generally to have been well received after opening the Cannes festival, despite the usual reservations about his work. Sounds like very typical Anderson territory. See David Hudson on Fandor for a summary of some reviews and interviews (including audio of the film’s press conference), plus a copy of the trailer.

 

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Weinsteins continue to bounce back

After struggling initially in their post-Miramax guise as The Weinstein Company, the Weinsteins seem to go from strength to strength these days. After their triumph with The Artist, they appear to be dominating Cannes at the moment, as reported by Anne Thompson at Indiewire. As so often, just goes to show the dangers of writing off careers/companies in the indie sector.

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New titles on indie film, 2

Also newly out and promising to make an important contribution in similar territory is Hollywood’s Indies: Classics Divisions, Speciality Labels and American Independent Cinema by Yannis Tzioumakis from Edinburgh University Press (also only in hardback at present and £47.99 from Amazon). Will also be awaiting library copy for this one, which seems to have a rather less jaunty cover image! Good to see this and Perren’s book adding more substance to studies of this ‘Indiewood’ territory constituted largely by the studio speciality divisions. And, yes, I do here have shamelessly to plug my ‘pioneering’ Indiewood, USA: Where Hollywood Meets Independent Cinema (I.B.Tauris, 2009), although I’ll avoid the temptation to include its cover below (but you can find an extract from the intro here.

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New titles on indie film, 1

Going to be a strong year for new academic publications on indie film (and that’s not even including my new book, ahem, and the collection I’m co-editing with Yannis Tzioumakis and Claire Molloy, both of which are plugged on the home page). Just out is Alisa Perren’s Indie Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s, from University of Texas Press. This promises to be a major contribution to understanding of one of the key players in the indie/Indiewood arena of recent times. Shame it’s currently hardback only and rather pricey (£38 from Amazon, which isn’t as much as some hardbacks but not cheap either). Will report on the content when either the Brunel library gets a copy in stock or when/if I decide I need to fork out for my own before it goes paperback.

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First post!

I decided after much thought to add a blog to this site, so here goes! Wasn’t sure this would work as, being UK-based, I’m not in the best position to blog in a very up-t0-date manner of new indie films, but thought I’d give it a go. So this will be an occasional affair and won’t claim to offer hot-off-the-press opinions on new movies.

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