Indiewood Inside the Studios. Context for American Beauty and 3 Kings. Studios bought into box-office success and award-garnering prestige achieved by indie features of the 1990s
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American Beauty critiqued aspects of American life through domestic social satire
--associated with Social Problem cinema of post 1945 and Hollywood Renaissance
Three Kings questioned foreign policy in Iraq.
--associated with a more recent strain of foreign policy critique resonating in the 1980s-2000s.
How far can the films offer an an alternative to the Hollywood norm at this level?
Do they represent a significant challenge to more conventional Hollywood material, or does the studio location impose constraints greater than might be expected in the indie sector with which each of these examples has at least some connection?
Budget of 15 million made it ineligible for Spirit Award
Dreamworks was the highest bidder for the film: originated as a spec script by Alan Ball, an established playwright and tv writer, who sent the script to the producing team of Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks, and they sold the film to Dreamworks
Variety saw this as a move by the studio towards a lower-budget production and the future prospect of its own specialty arm
Script taken to DreamWorks creative exec Glenn Williamson with instructions to read it himself, and he did, as did Bob Cooper and Steven Spielberg (ensuring greenlighting of the project). Does this show DreamWorks as a different kind of Hollywood studio where the marketing department doesn’t rule?
Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen took the position that the film was special and shouldn’t be previewed—except by NYT, who loved it.
Fits into tradition of satirical treatments of suburbia found on both sides of Hollywood/Indie divide.
Crude opposites turn to cliché: Lester (Spacey) vs. Carolyn (Bening) and Col Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), but Lester ultimately source of sympathetic audience allegiance (Indiewood instead of indie)
Critique of shallow materialism like that in The Graduate (1967)—nothing new
Most conventional in use of figure of the wife as a negative point of reference—part of wider historical tendency to associate many of the ills of suburban life with its allegedly emasculating qualities.
Videotapes produced by Ricky (Wes Bentley) serve as found art, but plastic bag film may be a direct lift from Nathaniel Dorsky’sVariations (1992-8)
Aesthetic is luxurious. Conrad Hall’s cinematography characterized by subtleties of lighting and reflection
A Pointed and fresh take on American war film that demonstrates a distinctly un-Hollywood sensibility despite its more conventional narrative ending.
Blends its central narrative premise (gold) with unsettling material and incongruous shifts of focus and tone, raising a number of awkward questions about the American-led operation in Iraq before eventually reaching a more conventionally affirmative and melodramatic conclusion.
Distinctive visual texture is key—widespread use of decentred, low and wide angles, composition in depth and devices such as whip pans, employment of different film stocks and processing techniques for a bright, blown-out quality of the desert location (Ektachrome stock—news footage and hyper-stylized aesthetic of music video)
Narrative is conventional: Melodramatic mechanisms, ending focused on heroic individual action, a Hollywood ending embracing the dominant American ideology.