The well-connected and marginally well-publicized Post-Mumblecore indie landscape has produced a lot of films in the past few years to some acclaim. Filmmakers that aspire to be a no-budget John Sayles or a lower-rent Lena Dunham cashed in their trust funds, hit up their relatives or skipped the yearly jaunt to the Turks & Caicos in order to subsidize their creative endeavors. It truly is a struggle trying to be unique while reinforcing the status quo. This is the adolescence of our future cinematic overlords and these are the hallmarks of their current offerings:
10. Completely Useless, Irrelevant Character or Plot-line.
A throwaway line that implies a lot, a mildly interesting interlude from the main plot, or character full of promise, don’t get excited because it’ll never be revisited outside of fan-fiction. Whether it’s a startling revelation about our hero or an entirely new character that shows up and causes a splash, this plot thread is discarded as quickly as it appeared. Who knows if the concept didn’t work and the editor forgot to take all of it out in post, the writer thought it’d be funny to rile up the alternate theory enthusiasts or the director’s cousin Rob promised him 5K if he could be in the movie. In any case this bit of cleverness or carelessness occurs with startling regularity.
9. “Edgy” Trope Subversion.
Remember Chekhov’s gun? So passé. But just to fuck with you, the pretentious auteur decides to introduce the weapon. Then someone loses it, or the antagonist is a pacifist, or it never existed in the first place. Pointlessly subverting a trope for no other reason than to do it because your Artpop could mean anything is not a testament to artistic intelligence, it’s just annoying.
8. College Student Poor.
It sucks to be poor, but very few actually impoverished protagonists exist in the movies and certainly not in these films. The nubile young post-grad may have to skip the bars but if she can turn a social connection into a few bucks or call up Mom and Dad or great aunt Sally, then she’s not poor, she’s just having cash flow issues. Though it is understandable that real poverty is often abjectly depressing and doesn’t really fit into the offbeat hipster comedy, college student poor is a privilege and making it into some kind of quirky affectation just makes a character insufferable.
7. Love Interest Who’s Kind of an Asshole but Really Profound About It.
She dresses impeccably or horribly, either way it’s very purposeful. He may be ambitious or an ambition-less philosopher, regardless, this designated paramour has a lot to say and one could almost mistake their opinions for depth. He also likes babies or flowers or she likes his favorite sandwich or some shit that indicates MFEO status despite the obstacle of their actual personality. After all it’s pretty romantic how he only has empathy for his ladylove on rare occasions…under the right circumstances, no?
6. At Least One Really Disgusting Slice of Life moment. Bonus Points for Scatology or Incest.
Life is dirty and often gross in mundane or bizarre ways and because you just don’t see enough of that outside of Apatow comedies, here it is. The “slice of life” can make a perfectionist main character seem earthy and relatable, it can provide a memorable comedic moment or it can simply be disgusting for disgusting’s sake. We all fart or throw up or know people who are a little too close to their relatives so it’s not a bad thing to portray the less flattering sides of life. But there is such a thing as “too real” and it can often serve as a distraction from the rest of the film. I mean let’s be honest it can be a little hard to get the image of Mary rolling around in her own vomit and refuse out of your head long enough to concentrate on that poignant scene at her grandmother’s funeral.
5. Thrift Shop Chic.
She only shops at Goodwill or his wardrobe only consists of rejects from the Salvation Army. Yet somehow they manage to put together outfits that don’t include t-shirts from the local high school or fraying sweatpants. Their dress sense shows their creativity, their joie de vivre and that “poor” people don’t have to dress poorly. One need only lean hard on the “willing suspension of disbelief” in order to ignore the fact that that dress is from Alexander Wang’s yet-to-be released Spring Collection.
4. Stuff is Happening in the World.
It’s not cool to be political, but it is cool to be “open-minded”. To show this character cares the writer drops in a reference to gay rights, Africa or fracking. They are totally informed, they’re a good person and a global citizen because they cared enough to reference a problem they have no idea how to fix but it’s really bad ok? That doesn’t mean they vote or volunteer though, because that would be pointless.
3. Cigarettes are Retro Weed is Cosmo.
Cigarettes cause cancer whilst weed settles anxiety and allows access to a higher plane of thought. I mean, have you ever watched Adventure Time while high? If anyone in this movie smokes it’s something they’re in the process of quitting or a retro affectation. But everyone smokes up, even the quirky girl next door, hell especially her.
2. Everyone’s from the City.
The city is the center of the universe at least in this movie. It doesn’t really matter which city, but let’s be real it’s probably New York. Our errant group of friends either live in the city or they’re trying to get there. Prolonged stays outside of the city result in withdrawal like symptoms.
In a tale as old as time, we are introduced to the unique problems of a twenty something and his or her group of friends set against the backdrop of the kind of Caucasian utopia that only exists in Bible epics and mainstream Science Fiction blockbusters. No they are not erasing people of color because statistics! These pioneering filmmakers are just freeing themselves from the shackles of the uninteresting and plot derailing complications that come with non-whites and they must never be questioned because that is their vision. Occasionally, someone will make a joke lampshading the overwhelming whiteness as if simply mentioning it mitigates the effect. Others take the opposite tack in which a token minority wanders through a scene and presents the perfect opportunity to make a disgusting comment about Asian women or reminisce about an awesome black drug dealer because somehow being unabashedly racist is challenging the oppressive strictures of PC culture and therefore sticking it to the man. Racism can even be an endearing quirk that’s totes wrong but still kind of funny right?
In truth this list could apply to any movie and that’s a little sad. These days in order to be considered a viable indie movie with any chance of success or support you have to be at least one degree of separation from an Academy Award winner or at minimum a Golden Globe nominee. Media has often been a reflection of the times so it’s unsurprising that what is promoted and produced reflects our cultural recidivism as well.
Sources: Me, Memegenerator, Google
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