Film: Independent movies and men in panties

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Tonight I had a lengthy discussion with Lifeline Editor Caitlin Foyt about a lack of independent and cult film presence in Mount Pleasant.

She was arguing that the lack of an indie/cult culture in our town showed a lack of diversity and culture.

I argued back that indie and cult films are just like any other movies, that some can be good, and some can be bad. There’s a reason a lot of the indie movies can’t get studio backing, and a lot of the cult films don’t have bigger fanbases–cause a lot of them suck!

A showing lack of culture is the refusal to try them in the first place, or take the time to experience something historical or socially significant. Nobody in this day and age can really argue the cultural gravity of a film like “Citizen Kane.”

However, this discussion of independent films got my exceedingly geeky mind off on a tangent it often finds itself on.

Comic books.

You see, up until now, movies basd on Marvel Comics characters were made much like you’d expect. Marvel would license its characters out to a Fox or a Sony, and the creators may be used as consultants, but essentially the studios made the movies and all the decisions.

This started to change with “Spider-Man,” but the change was slow-coming. Marvel was so eager to get a Spider-Man movie made, that they took the first offer Sony gave them, failing to read the fine print of the contract. Effectively, Sony owns Spider-Man. For every movie, cartoon, video game, comic book, backpack and thermos that bears Spider-Man’s image, Sony gets a percentage of the profits. For a relatively smaller company like Marvel, sharing the profits of the character that brings in the majority of your money can be devastating.

So every deal they’ve made since then with movie companies has been much more carefully combed through, and their demands and policies have been made clear. However, with their movie projects gaining steam and money rolling in, Marvel has recently gained the weight needed to buy back the licenses to all its characters.

Basically, any movie you see featuring Marvel characters from now on will be produced by Marvel with no influence from Hollywood studios, and then distributed through companies like Paramount and Lionsgate.

According to Empire Magazine, this May’s “Iron Man” has a budget of $150 million, which would make it the most expensive independent film ever made.

What I think is cool about this whole deal, is Marvel is taking a forward direction with their independently produced movies, as well. They are establishing that they all take place in the same universe, allowing for interplay between heroes and villains.

It’s been confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. will have a cameo in July’s “Incredible Hulk,” in the role of Tony Stark (Iron Man’s civilian identity), who is called in to help come up with a way to take the Hulk down.

It’s been all but confirmed that Samuel L. Jackson will appear as Sergeant Nick Fury, leader of the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D., in both movies.

You’ll probably see intertextuality and cameos like this as well in the movie versions of Captain America, Thor, and Ant Man,all being planned but not yet produced, leading up to the inevitable Avengers movie.

This is basically the sort of interplay between characters and the different themes of different movies Kevin Smith tried to do with his View Askewnaverse movies, but one hundred times more awesome.

I wish all indie film making was like this.

How cool would it be if, in “Juno,” Nick Naylor from Jason Reitman’s previous film “Thank You For Smoking” showed up?

I guess if you can’t get a Hollywood studio to financially back your film, getting a worldwide corporation whose entire business revolves around the creation of outlandish characters and stories to produce it is about the best anybody could ask for. At least in my mind.

Hopefully sometime this week, I can get something a little less niched up here on the blog. I’ve been wanting to write a few short-essay-type entries about films I consider required viewing, but two jobs and school tend to take precedence.

Oh, and I have the king-like pleasure of getting to go to the theater tomorrow night and seeing a prerelease screening of “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.” Keep an eye out on cm-life.com for my review Friday and Saturday, since I know you’re all frothing at the mouths in anticipation of this sure to be fine piece of cinema.

–Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

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