Faint praise for Alexander the Last in the New York Times (But, critical responses really don't matter to DIY film - or to some DIY films & makers)
On to somewhat related things: maybe the kind of thing Swanberg is doing is more like blogging, and most film critics & reviewers (and movie watchers, including myself), having grown up in the age of Hollywood & indiewood are not ready/not able to comprehend or appreciate it for what it is - like most critics who complain about bloggers - & critics who want "legitimate art/entertainment in films" that looks & feels like what they/we are used to seeing - & made even more legitimate when the work features name talent or are distributed by known, experienced distribution companies. Most people view DIY film in relation to Hollywood films - with Hollywood films & works closer to that in form, production methods, & distribution as more legitimate & all else as less legitimate - this is a largely useless approach to thinking about & reacting to filmed art/entertainment. It's like saying that McDonald's is more legitimate of a restaurant business than Tastee Diner in Silver Spring, MD because McDonald's makes billions of dollars & is known world wide. Back to something that I've said several times before - all films are legitimate - whether it's The Dark Knight or a film featuring two people talking for an hour and a half in a small room - each offers different things to audience members, that's all.
Perhaps older music reviewers & audiences felt the same way about the initial wave of punk rock (something like "no talent kids making music badly" :) & I am sure definitely hard core punk rock ("no talent kids screaming" :). But, over the years, things changed, punk & hard core created the field of activity that gave rise to indie rock & the whole lifestyle & world view that is pretty much a part of popular entertainment world wide at this point (kind of lifestyle being lead by at least one of the characters in Alexander - being in an indie band, touring - so I hear). So what does all this mean to Swanberg: he is definitely a pioneer. Even though I don't dig a lot of his movies & am at present disappointed a little (alleviated by the Barry Jenkins/Medicine for Melancholy story) that the same career-development breaks most of the "white" Mumblecore directors get don't seem to apply to minority filmmakers who work in a similar style & approach (granted, this is a part of an older & bigger problem than DIY filmmaking or the film business in general, & things are changing as far as equal opportunity/access to coveted jobs/careers goes - Obama is President at the moment for example) - Swanberg's productivity & the ability to ignore critics & keep doing his thing is very impressive. And other DIY filmmakers (Princeton Holt, myself, as mentioned Jenkins, Amir Motlagh - to name just a few) are taking care of the diversity thing, for the moment - when it comes to both ethnic & gender diversity (Ry Russo-Young, Kris Swanberg - just a couple off the top of my head). And the number of those directors are bound to grow in the coming years (quite possibly inspired by Swanberg).
So, ultimately, is what Swanberg is doing good for indie film? Yes, I think so. If nothing else, it will show that there is a possibility - regardless of choice in craftsmanship & story telling style - if you keep at it you might develop a small following & will be able to keep making movies, in a slightly bigger & more refined (from a traditional perspective) scale after a while. This is something that has always been true for DIY filmmakers - before Swanberg Jon Moritsugu was doing the same kind of thing in his own way, plus no doubt dozens of others that maybe even I haven't heard about. But it is always nice to have very visible reminders such as Swanberg's career to remind people exactly how much is possible through DIY filmmaking & a lot of networking.
So, congrats to Swanberg & Team Alexander for getting the movie done & out. Go here to find out about when & where you can see it. When I watch it I am going to approach it with the same expectations I have when I start reading a personal blog - maybe there will be some interesting things in there, related to the life of the author, but I am not gonna be looking for an epic or even entertaining narrative or colorful, well defined characters as I would expect from a traditional novel. And since there is no wrong way to make a movie, it's totally cool that a DIY film is a lot different in what it offers than what a given Hollywood or indiewood movie will offer - whether it works or not for a given audience member will depend on the taste of that audience member.
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