To those, unaware of the kerfuffle, few weeks ago at the 2015 Independent Spirit Awards, director of the highly-praised thriller, Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy, after accepting his honor for best first feature, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead, shared his opinion that, "Independent film, the foundation and everybody here today, I think, are holdouts against a tsunami of superhero movies that have swept over this industry.” "We have survived and we have thrived and I think that's true spirit."
I won't be quoting Mr. Gilroy, word by word, as you can hear him standing behind the podium proudly in the clip below, and towards the last few seconds, in conclusion of his speech, pointing clearly his bitter feelings towards the influx of the superhero movies – inspired by the characters adapted from the pages of the respective comic-books.
The society of fans those, who adore, especially the Superhero flicks, remained calm, including the artists behind the successful films, except one man, known as, James Gunn, whom was behind Guardians of the Galaxy. In his own language, Mr. Gunn relied on his Facebook page, where you can follow him, and as well as read his response to Mr. Gilroy's comments in its entirety, stepping up in defense of Superhero movies, or, I should say, cinema.
For the past few days I've been thinking about where to begin when it comes to both directors' comments. To take a break from screenwriting, and giving this piece a little bit of more thought, and the more I listened to both filmmakers, inspiring me, I decided to write, concerning cinema of contemporary society – a Divided Cinema, I call it – looking at it strictly as a screenwriter, who admires dark themed tales, characters, with more of a positive attitude towards Christoper Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, if Superheroes are what we're really talking about, for Nolan's approach is more on the genre of crime, film-noir and realistic ambitions. I understand where Mr. Gilroy is coming from – in many ways, the independent cinema is arduously attempting to survive. Okay, maybe not the term,“survive” – if we look at it, “ it's about the attention that independent films deserve more,” is perhaps most suitable, instead of saying, “we have survived or we are going to survive.”
The Divided Cinema, constitutes a presentiment of dull days for movies in general, monotonous, its smell, I can sense from my room, if the blockbuster paradigm of today truly is “cinema,” the production of films as an “art,” which once consist of titles such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Blade Runner (1982), Alien (1979), Citizen Kane (1941), Unforgiven (1992), The Sixth Sense (1999).
I also understand why Mr. Gunn is defending his art, in what he believes – in what he truly has faith, who went on to end his thoughts, saying, “If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we're dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a "serious" filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.”
I, personally doubt that Mr. Gilroy's comment at the Independent Spirit Awards were to degrade the passion that goes behind the Superhero movies. Perhaps, these two respective filmmakers are finding themselves in a border, dividing cinema of the contemporary society. To look at the influx of superhero flicks, majority of the titles tend to be more on the side of being gullible, not giving value to cinema itself. I've said among friends many times that the generation of 21st Century, unfortunately, knows that Transformers movies are cinema, while in reality, cinema, its definition is of pure art. Though, the characters in, say, Mr. Bay's Transformers movies or Mr. Whedon's The Avengers, is not like they aren't art, or, not at all designed passionately by the artists. In reality, it all should be how a writer, a director, convey art, or like Steven Soderbergh once said in his State of Cinema Talk in San Francisco, “Art, in my view, is a very elegant problem-solving model.” Film-making, as we all know, has never been an easy task, which I'm sure Mr. Gilroy is cognizant of. But, the entertainment factor has us all so intoxicated that thought-provoking art via big or small budget films both, tend to get less attention of the audiences. One almost loses faith in humanity seeing a crowd cheering for Optimus Prime, Iron Man and Batman, but not for the character of, say, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who keeps his promise and come back to his daughter (Jessica Chastain), in Mr. Nolan's sci-fi adventure, Interstellar.
Which side is more serious when it comes to making film? The way I see it, the business of film-making has become more essential, more valuable, unfortunately, than the film itself. It's the entertainment that one side of the crowd give value to, but not iota of value to the source, which is a film, that can be a performance-driven one, or, a character-driven, much like The Dark Knight (2008), or, Interstellar (2014).
But, if blockbusters, superhero movies continue to be adornment of the cine-goers, one name claims that small budget films exist only due to studios' tackling of the expensive titles – Harvard Professor and author of Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the big business of Entertainment, Anita Elberse, sheds light on big budget spectacles, creating an environment at the studios, in which smaller budget films can be made. Below, is a short excerpt from her interview with TheCredits.org:
I think one underreported part of my book, and something both movie lovers and people in the industry need to really understand, is that these [blockbuster] franchises are, in a way, paying for the more risky projects. I’ve given this example before, but look at Gravity. I don’t think the film would have existed if Warner Brothers hadn’t had the Harry Potter series, because they wouldn’t have been able to spend $100 million on what seemed like a very risky project, one that took years and years to be made. And yes, that’s a $100 million movie, but you could argue that the $20 million or the $30 million dollar movies that do employ quite a range of different people in the industry, and are passion projects for so many of them, would have a much harder time finding funding if it weren’t for movies like Iron Man 3 that studios are also putting out. You have to think this about this as a portfolio decision for these studios. I personally think the more you have these blockbuster bets they’re making, the healthier the industry is in many respects.
So, let's not eschew that amidst even this tsunami of superhero movies – big budget blockbusters, a sensible and a just attitude doesn't exist. The nature, atmosphere of blockbusters and independent cinema, is based on a unique latter-day society. A society, in which I, personally believe, that cinema matters, for originality matters.