Archive for Film and Media

Screenplays-a-Go-Go

For the last many months, I’ve been on a screenwriting binge, so I thought it was about time I produced a list of the scripts I’ve put in circulation. I’m including their loglines (one or two sentences that push the characters and conflict) and what, if any, honors they’ve garnered so far.

  • Feature Scripts
    • Calling Cards (drama, thriller)
      • When a lonely ex-professor receives a visit from a charming former student, a magic trick with playing cards makes the evening develop in five different ways, putting their careers, their love lives, and even their survival at stake.
      • Set in one location with three characters, one of whom appears only briefly, this script is perfect for a low-budget indie production.
      • Quarter-finalist, Screenwriters’ Network Screenplay Competition, 2020
    • Come Alive (comedy, adventure, sci-fi, LGBTQ)
      • A middle-aged gay couple’s attempt to rekindle their relationship turns into an absurd, hormone-fueled quest to defeat alien invaders and save a new LGBTQ society.
      • Semi-finalist, RAINBOW Cinema Awards, 2020; selection, AOF Megafest, 2020; winner, live reading, FEEDBACK LGBT Toronto FF, 2020
    • Crash Café (thriller)
      • A deranged but calculating man takes the customers in a café hostage by poisoning them and withholding the antidote. He manipulates everyone as he focuses on the psychological torture of one woman in particular, and each of his victims must decide how much control to surrender in order to make it out alive.
      • With only one location–a single-room café–this script offers all the tension of a more demanding production without the demanding budget.
      • 2nd Place, Fade In Awards Thriller Competition, 2020; selection, Hollywood Dreams IFF, 2020
    • Crazy Time (horror, dark urban fantasy)
      • A traumatized woman believes she suffers from a curse reminiscent of the Book of Job, but instead of responding with piety, she hunts down the horrors’ source, risking madness, the apocalypse, or both.
      • Selection, FilmQuest, 2020
  • Idolatry (horror)
    • When a naïve college student becomes fixated on the leader of a notorious literary magazine, he spirals into a world of obscure drugs, brutal sex, and sensationalized murder.
  • The Masses (horror)
    • As the people of a small town succumb to infectious tumors that change their behavior, a strong-minded woman tries to save her children from the fascist nightmare that her husband and other townsfolk are creating.
    • Honorable Mention, Hollywood Horrorfest, 2020; selection, Austin After Dark Film Festival, 2020; Honorable Mention, The International Horror Hotel, 2020
  • Miasma (horror)
    • As foul fumes fill their house, a couple in a strained marriage must fight through sickness, hallucinations, and violent impulses to save their children and escape.
    • Set in one location, a house, with only five characters, this script offers low-budget horror with high-octane thrills.
    • Nominee, Best Feature Script, Independent Horror Movie Awards, 2020; selection, AOF Megafest, 2020
  • The Phantom Cuckoo (drama)
    • Diverse members of an extended family attempt to adjust to changes in where and how they live while personal and political differences threaten to tear them apart.
    • Set in one location with an ensemble cast, this script does away with other budgetary concerns to focus on performances.
    • Selection, Filmmatic Drama Screenplay Awards, 2020
  • Sam the Rhino (mystery, thriller, noir, LGBTQ)
    • A trans private eye’s search for his missing mother leads him into a web of intrigue with a wealthy family who may kill each other—and him—before they can help him find his mom.
    • Semi-finalist, RAINBOW Cinema Awards, 2020; semi-finalist, Action-Adventure, Creative World Awards, 2020, 1st Place, Suspense-Thriller, Indie Gathering International Film Festival, 2020; semi-finalist, New York City International Screenplay Awards, 2020
  • Their Father’s World (horror)
    • After they naively try to resurrect their father by opening a door between worlds, three odd sisters face a supernatural onslaught while trying to escape their haunted house.
    • Although it calls for some spectacular FX, the single location and small cast make this script fairly manageable for a an intricate supernatural shocker.
  • Undying (horror)
    • A group of minorities fights back against a white supremacist stalker and kills him—several times. To save their neighborhood and themselves, they must find a way to get rid of him permanently.
    • Selection, Hollywood Dreams IFF, 2020; finalist, WriteMovies Horror Award 2019; finalist, 13HORROR.COM Film & Screenplay Contest, 2019; finalist, Big Apple FF, 2019
  • Unreal Anthony (drama)
    • A young man with a mental illness follows advice about trying to connect with new people, but his mind puts up barriers, ranging from the comic to the disastrous, that keep pushing connections out of reach.
    • Selection, AOF Megafest, 2018; 2nd Place, Drama, Indie Gathering International Film Festival, 2018
  • Wonder Drugs (drama, contemporary fantasy)
    • A woman with a mental illness tries new drug therapies and goes on a hallucinatory journey—through a giant garden, a mall in the clouds, a live volcano, and more—in search of a whole, stable sense of self.
    • Best Feature (Written Word) and Overcomer Award, Conquering Disabilities with Film IFF, 2020; selection, Hollywood Screenings FF, 2020; semi-finalist, Los Angeles CineFest, 2020; selection, Marina Del Rey FF, 2019; selection, Chicago Screenplay Awards, 2019

Although I don’t have loglines for them, some of my short scripts have also gotten some love on the festival/competition circuit, so I’ll mention them:

  • Short Scripts
    • Charlie’s Mother (extreme horror)
      • 3rd Place, Outré, Hollywood Horrorfest, 2019
      • Based on a story from my collection Leaping at Thorns, coming soon in a new edition from Three Bitches Press
    • Complicity (supernatural / surreal horror)
      • Semi-finalist, ScreenCraft Shorts Competition, 2019
      • Based on a story from my collection Leaping at Thorns, coming soon in a new edition from Three Bitches Press
    • Hidden Subjects (thriller)
      • Semi-finalist, Filmmatic Short Screenplay Awards, 2020
    • Selfie Stick (psychological horror)
      • Finalist, 13HORROR.COM Film & Screenplay Contest, 2019
    • Silence (supernatural / surreal horror)
      • 2nd Place, Supernatural Short Script, Hollywood Horrorfest, 2020; finalist, Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition, 2019
      • Based on a story from my collection Leaping at Thorns, coming soon in a new edition from Three Bitches Press
    • Tapestry (supernatural / surreal horror)
      • Finalist, Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition, 2019
      • Based on a story from my collection Leaping at Thorns, coming soon in a new edition from Three Bitches Press

Suspiria 2018: New Blood in Nightmares of Power

Dario Argento has said in several interviews, including the one I had with him, that he saw no need for a remake of Suspiria (1977) and was generally opposed to the idea. I’m generally in favor of remakes of films I like, but I took Argento’s point. Remakes can’t harm their sources, and they might do impressive things with already-proven concepts—however, I assumed that a remake of Suspiria would suck. Argento’s Suspiria doesn’t offer much in terms of story or character to work with; in its greatest moments, it is almost pure style. In remaking such a film I saw a strong temptation to imitate, but I saw little room for productive play. In other words, I didn’t see where a remake could go, so I expected it wouldn’t go very far or accomplish very much.

I am happy to say I was wrong about Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria (2018), which manages excellence by straying far from its namesake in some respects while staying tethered at key points. The look, sound, and pacing demonstrate the relationship succinctly. In place of Argento’s shocking palette of primary colors and assaultive sounds by the prog-rock band Goblin, the new Suspiria offers hypnotically drab greys and browns and the lulling experimental tones of Thom Yorke. The two approaches are almost inversions of one another, but they both result in dream-like atmospheres, in nightmarish worlds where witches seem likely to lurk.

 

Attached to Argento’s assaultive aesthetic is a tendency to pile one bizarre or violent set-piece onto another, leaving little room (or need) for character and story and allowing the film to come in at a tight 98 minutes. Guadagnino’s more meditative approach is almost an hour longer, 152 minutes, and it uses that time to provide what the earlier film denies. The new film uses the older film’s characters’ names and gives many of them the same or similar roles in a famous Dance Academy, but for a setting it trades in Freiburg and the fairy-tale-archetype-filled Black Forest for 1977 Berlin, which has a hard and specific reality underscored by news reports about terrorism and many lingering shots of the Wall. In their new setting, characters start over, developing backstories and nuanced emotional relationships that their more archetypal counterparts wouldn’t recognize. Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is still an American newcomer to the Academy, but now she’s an untrained former Mennonite from Ohio who has issues with her mother that inform several dimensions of the film. Her backstory is perhaps especially important to her relationship with Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), still the functional leader of the Academy and now a dark maternal figure for Susie. No longer campy and two-dimensional, Madame Blanc is prominent in the post-World-War-II dance world, having given the definitive performance of Volk (“people,” a politically suggestive title if there ever was one) in 1948. She treats Susie at times as a daughter and at times an apprentice, grooming her to take the role she once defined on stage and preparing her for a different role in a witches’ conspiracy.

Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc

 

What the witches—the teachers who run the Academy— are conspiring about is exceptionally vague in Argento’s film. Argento keeps their meetings offscreen (we overhear bits), but Guadagnino shows the coven in session, casting votes and revealing divisions as they choose either Madame Blanc or Helena Markos (also Tilda Swinton), the unquestioned head in Argento’s version, to go on as leader. Guadagnino’s witches are searching for a young woman to play a part in a ritual that somehow sustains the coven, which in turn sustains the women within it (the coven has protected the women through World War II and other catastrophes). The exact nature of the ritual is mysterious at first, but it does become clear. If, as several critics have argued, the earlier film’s coven provides a murky view of authoritarian power and violence, the new film imagines such power wielded by and for women who have specific goals—but their power is unstable. Resolving this instability becomes a major motivator for the plot and allows for multiple conflicts to unwind at the conclusion, providing an ending far grander in scope than the earlier film’s.

 

A central question for any viewer coming from the graphic violence of the 1977 Suspiria is likely, How does the witches’ power look on screen? The infamous opening sequence of Argento’s film, which culminates in the gruesome deaths of two young women in glorious Technicolor, is gone, but the 2018 Suspiria is anything but tame in its depictions of violence. Whereas Argento relies on camera movements and editing to suggest magic, Guadagnino exploits his source material—dance—and makes physical movement the stuff of spellcasting. Thus in one of the film’s most memorable and cringe-inducing sequences, Susie tries dancing the role Madame Blanc defined in Volk, and, as she channels the witches’ will, each of her jerky motions results in violent bends and breaks in another young woman’s body.

Dance works dark magic

At other moments, touching and hand motions pull off magical feats—bones shatter, arteries explode. While not as vibrant or elaborate, the violence of the 2018 film is just as extreme, and it’s located at the heart of the women’s profession, linking their physical power to their supernatural power. In this version, then, witches’ power—and perhaps women’s power—is deeply embodied, and their politics are literally and figuratively a dance that can break bodies apart. The breaking of bodies recurs in the setting, a broken Berlin, and makes resolving instability in the coven (and the larger political world) more urgent. The film’s trajectory drives toward a unity and stability whose cost is purification through violence, a heavy imprint of the fascism that the coven’s exercise of power ultimately reflects.

The dance troupe–a vision of unity through violence?

 

If the power the witches wield is ultimately fascistic, it is a sublime alternative to the power on offer by the patriarchy. Men get little representation in the 2018 Suspiria. Two police detectives stop by the Academy to investigate and get completely brain-wiped by the witches (who stop to fiddle with one of their absurd-looking penises just for kicks)—these men are a joke. The important male character is Dr. Klemperer (also played by Tilda Swinton), a psychoanalyst who makes the mistake of dismissing Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz), a student who flees the Academy and its witches at the beginning of the film, as delusional. Years earlier, he also dismissed concerns about Nazis pressed by his lover Anke (Jessica Harper, who plays Susie in Argento’s film), which caused him to lose her. He sets off on parallel investigations, searching for Patricia and Anke, and as a result he gets caught up in the witches’ conspiracy, taking on a role that demonstrates the relative weakness of psychoanalysis and male judgment before the power of the women who lure him into their rites. Suspiria (1977) and Suspiria (2018) are nightmares about witches, and thus they are nightmares about powerful women. The more recent film uses Dr. Klemperer to show how utterly a man might be diminished by the consolidation of a nightmarish form of female power, diminished not just in the present but in the revelation of a lifetime of impotence.

Tilda Swinton as Doctor Klemperer

 

On the surface, Guadagnino’s Suspiria looks and sounds almost unrelated to Argento’s, and a viewer looking for a repeat of Argento’s masterful sensual assault will leave the new film disappointed. What I found in the 2018 version is a film invested in the earlier version’s DNA—nightmarish reflections on power—combined with characters and storylines well-worth following. In addition to not wanting a remake of Suspiria, Argento has expressed dissatisfaction with contemporary horror. I don’t know if he has seen Suspiria 2018 or gone on record about it, but I think if it were a film of a different name, he might like it. It takes the art of horror film seriously, and it gets impressive results. That’s Argento’s legacy, and Guadagnino’s film, for all its deviation from Argento’s templates, fits perfectly.

Wording with Thorns

Only the fiction of my horror stories is exaggerated. The supernatural is mostly metaphor and code. The horror is real.

A lot of people—especially people with majority privilege—like to complain about political correctness. Think about this. Think about lying in your loved one’s arms at home at night, sleeping soundly. You wake up because so many arms have grabbed you that you can’t move. You get one more glimpse of your lover—you know instantly that she or he is going to be dead soon. Next, you’re tied to a stake, and bundles of burning sticks are being thrown at your feet just often enough to keep the agony high. These bundles are called “faggots.” You’re called a faggot, too, because your life is worth no more than tinder because of those you love. Watching you die is someone’s entertainment.

burning-at-the-stake1

If you think you have a right to complain about political correctness, and you have a shred of decency, you may not realize that there’s no exaggeration in the previous paragraph. More often than not in the name of Jesus Christ, people brutally and LEGALLY murdered their neighbors who expressed same-sex attraction from medieval times through the Holocaust (we wore pink triangles in the concentration camps, lest you forget). In the year 2016, homosexuality is still punishable by death in the Muslim world, not just in Iran (where the method of choice is live burial, like in the Edgar Allan Poe stories), but in nations the U.S. calls allies.

buriedalive

After the U.S. stopped putting homosexuals in prison, it still locked us up in mental institutions, using electro-shock and other methods to “cure” us that would likely be considered violations of the 8th Amendment and the Geneva Convention (remember American Horror Story: Asylum?). True story: homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness in the U.S. until the 1970s, and a lot of people in the U.S. still act like it is. Read the news about which minorities are a plague this week. When people treat you like you’re an illness, they want to cure you. What do people do with illnesses? Eliminate them. Hitler had a final solution. Do you?

electro-shock-therapy-sees-a-resurgence

The world really is that bad. So when you worry about political correctness as a Great Satan, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. If you want to complain about idiots who try to use political correctness as an excuse to censor art, please be my guest. I gladly say fuck those motherfuckers: I hope their intestines spontaneously explode from their bodies and form a slide for them to ride straight to hell.

reanimatorintestinespooljpg

I gladly say inappropriate things and create some of the most incorrect characters imaginable in my fiction. Some people who are fighting against political correctness feel that free speech is under threat, and to the extent that they’re right, I’m with them, but political correctness should be about acknowledging the power of language, which is something every good writer (and, in my opinion, good human being) should reckon with. So, fellow language-users, consider these two critical points:

  • Hate speech is a clear and present danger. If you’re arguing about limits on your free speech, remember that there already is one: you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Why? Because that’s an instance of speech that threatens the safety of a group of people. Dictionary.com defines hate speech as “speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability”. “Faggot” devalues the lives of gay people and encourages murders like that famous murder of Matthew Shepard. Likewise—more on this in a moment—when a group of people on Facebook attacked me by using the words “handicapped” and “bipolar” as insults, it clearly fit the definition of hate speech related to disability and therefore did not qualify for protection under the first amendment.normalboring
  • “Use” and “mention” of words are distinct. I have mentioned the word “faggot” many times here. I have referred to its history of hatred, but I have not used that history or used the word to apply to a specific human being. This distinction is subtle and difficult for many people. So is the distinction between in-group use and out-of-group use. Language is about contexts. Political correctness helps people less familiar with contexts to navigate them. Unless you’ve known me for a good long time, you’re better off not using the word “faggot” in my presence. I’m bipolar and I’m gay. A really close friend might call me a crazy fag, but the probability that you’re that person is close to zero.

So I referred to a recent experience with hate speech related to disability. Despite the persistence of ex-gay camps and such that insist on trying to “cure” homosexuality, the mainstream no longer treats it as an illness, which is good, because it seems like a fine thing to me. I can’t say the same about the other stigmatized category I’m in. So people feel much more justified in treating me like I’m an illness to be eliminated. Take your meds. Wipe yourself into an oblivion where you won’t bother us anymore.

butimacheerleadernewdirections

When people make fun of us, I really just want to point out to you normals that you’re literally incapable of fathoming how un-fun it is. Unless you have my mental condition, your brain is not equipped to handle what mine processes. I am THAT different from you. But if I say that, people will think it’s some sort of arrogance or exaggeration. But it’s biochemical certainty. Part of what I try to do with my horror fiction is give you people glimpses. Edgar Allan Poe did that, too. Word is he was bipolar, and having read all of his work, I feel fairly confident his diagnoses would have had much in common with mine (never been an alcoholic, though). Lots of you have some hero-worship for him… mine’s a little different. I think he was in my club. Chances are, you’re not. Bipolar pride. Woo-hoo. Now turn down the fucking lights and remember we’re all going to die.

walkitoff

For the last few election cycles, gay people were the favorite category to pick on. This time it’s the mentally ill, as we’re clearly the cause of all the shootings and such (nevermind that all the stats show we’re far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crimes, thanks in part due to asshole horror writers who don’t do research). Seems I can’t get a break. Like it or not, the zeitgeist is with me, and I am with you. My recent bouts with illness have left me feeling too in touch with contemporary psych, but a little bit of Freud stands strong: the repressed shall always return…

Which reminds me, when you call something “exemplary,” you mean it stands as an example of your highest values. The person who led the mob that used hate speech against me was called “exemplary” by an organization specifically for his behavior on Facebook, I put myself in reach of this bigot because of his high standing in the organization, yet the organization (which has a sordid history with alleged racists and rapists) refuses to act at all. I suppose I AM crazy to think “sane” people would see that “political correctness” is about decency, and, to quote a popular writer, “We endorse things by our participation in them.” People in the organization are hypocritical enough to dismiss me as too touchy and therefore not worth considering as yet another crazy “victim” of their membership’s hate.

Perhaps decency is just too damned rare. My mania is quixotic.

donquixote

 

UPDATE: The “organization” referred to in this blog post is the Horror Writers’ Association. When the recipient of the HWA’s President’s Award, given for his “exemplary” achievement not in literature but in the FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, encouraged a mob to attack me with hate speech on Facebook, I reported the incident to the President and Vice-President of the HWA. I was informed that the HWA “would never tell any member or any of our volunteers what they can say on their own page.” This echo of the HWA’s doomed position in an earlier incident chilled me. I’ll borrow from Brian Keene. In a “statement regarding their decision to allow an avowed white supremacist and fascist serve as a Bram Stoker Award Juror” they tried to defend themselves by citing a “principle of supporting and practicing freedom of expression.” Of course they backpedaled when they realized that being a horror writer isn’t an excuse for lacking human decency… but I’m concerned that Keene is right about history repeating itself, and although I may not be one of the HWA’s greatest victims, they’re standing fast by a bigot who’s proud of hate speech against people with mental disabilities. They stand by calling him “exemplary.”

TOP RESPONSES FROM HWA

“I would never tell any member or any of our volunteers what they can say on their own page.” (The HWA President, Lisa Morton, who gave the President’s Award to Patrick Freivald for his “exemplary” standing in the horror community due to his work on Facebook–she is therefore the person most directly responsible for representing the HWA in endorsing his Facebook values, which demonstrably include supporting hate speech against the disabled)

“You’re not a special snowflake. Sorry. [You are] Using Bipolar disorder for excusing passive aggressive behavior.” (The Vice President, on why HWA won’t act in response to my complaints about hate speech–he later berated me aggressively, all on record)

Several other HWA “luminaries” have read the hate on Freivald’s page and assented to the party line that I “overreacted to something that never happened in the first place.” Lisa Morton angrily severed contact–as if she had been wronged–when I alluded to a film about rape, but whether she likes it or not, her methods are tried and true for squashing rape victims. Nope, I’m not as bad off as such victims in this case, not by a long shot, but I’m sick of HWA grabbing at any excuse to shut down dialogue that points out what everyone knows: they’ve got deep, deep problems.

REEL DARK in the Spotlight

Have you ever been afraid of the movies? Not afraid AT the movies–any good horror film should give you chills–but scared that the movies themselves could somehow darken your world?

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Get ready to be shocked out of your seat. After a limited release in 2015, Reel Dark is back in 2016 with this stunning new cover by Aaron Drown Design and two new tales, Michael West’s sojourn into apocalyptic soundscapes “Ave Satani” and Alexander S. Brown’s love-song to late-night horror-hosts “Grotessa.” In all, it’s a collection of twenty authors who in prose and poetry combine elements from across genres–horror, sci-fi, and noir, of course, but also the western, comedy, and others–in order to show us the mayhem the movies might work on the world.

Here’s the lineup:

Russ Bickerstaff, “24 per second: Persistence of Fission”

Hal Bodner, “Whatever Happened to Peggy… Who?”

Alexander S. Brown, “Grotessa”

James Chambers, “The Monster with My Fist for Its Head”

L. Andrew Cooper, “Leer Reel”

James Dorr, “Marcie and Her Sisters”

Sean Eads, “The Dreamist”

JG Faherty, “Things Forgotten”

Amy Grech, “Dead Eye”

Jude-Marie Green, “The Queen of the Death Scenes”

Karen Head, “Amnesia”

Jay Seate, “It’s a Wrap”

Caroline Shriner-Wunn, “Confessions of a Lady of a Certain Age” and more poetry throughout the book!

Rose Streif, “Caligarisme”

Sean Taylor, “And So She Asked Again,”

Pamela Turner, “Rival”

Jason S. Walters, “Low Midnight”

Mike Watt, “Copper Slips Between the Frames”

Michael West, “Ave Satani”

Jay Wilburn, “Cigarette Burns”

Trouble Where Arthouse Meets Megaplex

Recent articles have lauded the movie The Witch for flying from the festival circuit to grace the mainstream’s megaplexes with its arthouse horror presence. I’m a snob about snobbery: while some arthouse fare is brilliant, a lot of it is pretentious crap. Please don’t misunderstand me. A lot of films in general are crap. I just prefer crap to be unpretentious. Otherwise, arthouse films have as much of a chance at being brilliant as other kinds of films, and that’s what irks me about critics getting in a twist over The Witch because it’s an arthouse film errantly appearing at a theater near you. The unstated assumption is that because of its origins, it has a better chance of being brilliant, and what’s more, there’s something unusual about brilliance being near you.

thewitch_online_teaser_01_web_largeThis blog isn’t about The Witch, so before I go on: The Witch is good, not particularly pretentious and only a little artsy. Not in my top five similarly-themed films (maybe Suspiria, Antichrist, Haxan, Inferno, Rosemary’s Baby); perhaps top ten.

So then, I’m talking about that familiar opposition between arthouse and mainstream, an opposition that usually valorizes the arthouse as good for you and therefore good. Also, there’s a sense that arthouse is not your house, at least if “you” are of the masses. Art opposes product, mass production and mass consumption, things for and by the masses. Art is, in a word, elite, and therefore it stinks of elitism. Art is art in part because it excludes masses.

But wait! Here’s the problem. Art comes from an art-ist. It comes from an individual, whereas mass production comes from a production company, a corporation. By opposing product, art also opposes the economy of scale that makes masses faceless.

I am not interested in theorizing art or artists here, but I am interested in a difficulty I feel, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling, when I try to take a stand against arthouse snobs. “Arthouse” seems anti-democratic because it’s exclusive, but it seems democratic because it’s humanizing.

First, I’ve got to say that people who think indie/arthouse/festival-born films are automatically better than big-production studio pedigrees likely have not been to many film festivals. Imagine that actor you hate—you know the one—who seems to have a new movie out every time you turn around. Now imagine you’ve gone into one of that actor’s movies, except it’s not that actor, it’s someone just as annoying who reminds you of him, and no one else in the movie can act, either, and the sets are really fake, and the camera is off-center. And you’ve just noticed that one of the other leads is in the theater sitting next to you. And your seat is really uncomfortable. And the sound is a little tinny. No, not all, not even most indie/arthouse/festival movies are like that. But some of them are.

tingler-sfSpan

However, then you go next door, and you see this film directed by this woman you’ve never heard of starring this other guy who’s totally awesome with this girl who’s clearly going to be a star, and you think you should be going to film festivals every weekend. You settle in and have your brain massaged for about two hours, and when you’re done you feel edified and refreshed, the intellectual version of someone in a soft drink commercial, colored by your emotion of choice: fear, longing, joy, passion, sadness, rage. Your average indie/arthouse/festival experience doesn’t offer very many chances of getting off like that, but it might offer a few.

Sometimes the goods get you, but sometimes you do get the goods. Spitting on the arthouse snobs may reject one form of elitism, but too-copious spitting risks rejecting artists who do good work, artists who can’t help that ultimately, their work, too, has become a differently-branded form of product that carries its own advantages and disadvantages in different markets. Tempting as rough shaming may be, we must work to educate the ignorant snobs who think the origin of a thing (or a person) necessarily relates to its quality. Yes, some firmness of hand may at times keep them from forcing terrible films and the like down our throats. Otherwise, they can help to promote good ones, such as The Witch (and the others on my list of witch-y favorites) and study hard to learn that the claim to be acclaimed need not be self-fulfilling.