14 March 2009


I just wanted to use this photo because it cracks me up.

Obviously, if you're reading this blog, you've been paying attention to the mumblecore discussion that's been floating around the internets. I won't bother to summarize it for you, beyond a couple links:

+ The David Denby piece is clearly a must-read (and I love that artwork). I'll admit that despite his failings, I'm a big fan of Denby, partly because I think he's pretty good at being an asshole about films that are mediocre, or just boring. For that alone, I enjoy reading him.

Thing is, I don't know that Denby's really saying all that much here, but that's probably a result of the fact that the article is largely an introduction.

+ Andrew Bujalski's Beeswax is getting a lot of attention, and for obvious reasons. Twitter really seems divided on the film, much like I was torn on Mutual Appreciation. I haven't seen Beeswax yet, but I'm hoping to soon.

+ Alejandro Adams (who I've just recently come into contact with and seems like a very nice guy) is definitely on the negative side of the mumblecore debate, and he weighs in with a well-written post here. My favorite part?

"It takes a lot of nerve to go on the record as not caring about the technical aspects of filmmaking, especially if you're making a new feature every Tuesday. Joe is either stupid or manifesting some really unhealthy form of integrity. I have a strong suspicion that he's not stupid."

Those two sentences say a lot, in my opinion. I think it'd be really worthwhile for someone to explore that further. From what I've seen of Swanberg's worth (and, admittedly, it's not much), I can see both sides of that argument. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Of course, I can't sign on to Adams' point for view for a couple of reasons: 1) I just haven't seen enough mumblecore to be sure how I feel about it just yet, 2) some of these mumblecore-ers are people I consider friends and colleagues, and 3) I have a sinking suspicion that if Adams was around during the French New Wave, he might have been saying some of the same things. Does that make him wrong or a bad person or whatever? No, of course not. It's just something to keep in mind. Movements like this (and I'm not even sure this is a movement) always seem to look a lot different when viewed through the lens of history than they do when they're actually happening. Let's face it, Swanberg and Bujalski aren't Truffaut and Godard, but who is? They're both pretty young, and neither seems to be lacking for opportunity, so the real question is whether or not they have the talent to be remembered when the movement is over. Someone said (and I forget who) that they think this time will be remembered for mumblecore. To me, we're not at that point yet, and I don't know if we ever will be. But, maybe.

The important thing, I think, is to give the movement a chance to breathe, to find itself. Maybe mumblecore is bullshit and no one will care in 20 years, but maybe it'll become something really great and in 20 years we'll all have selective memories of how we felt about it. Or maybe, just maybe, mumblecore isn't the movement, maybe it's the prelude to the movement. At any rate, we should shut the hell up and let them make their films. They aren't hurting anyone and they're making it a hell of a lot easier for the rest of us to find some acceptance. And for that, we should be thankful.


Amir Motlagh said...

"Or maybe, just maybe, mumblecore isn't the movement, maybe it's the prelude to the movement"

This is an interesting sentiment. I agree that this could be the case.

Moviezzz said...

I watched Swanberg's ALEXANDER THE LAST last night. It was the longest 72 minute film I have ever seen. Incredibly dull, no characters to care about, rather pointless.

Still, you have to admire Swanberg for being so prolific.

The good thing about mumblecore is it can inspire people to go out and make a film. If these guys can make a film with video cameras, and get it shown, and get people talking about them, than anyone can.

The bad thing, just because they are filming something doesn't mean that we should care about what they are filming.

Early on in ALEXANDER there is this scene were two actresses are sitting next to each other, making imitations of babies. It goes on for far to long, and isn't as interesting to the audience as it is to the actors or their friends behind the camera.

A DIY filmmaker, with a real script, well thought out characters, could really do well in the mumblecore movement as they don't seem to care about that sort of thing.

lucas mcnelly said...

yeah Jim, i think for mumblecore to really stick, it's going to have to find a way to connect with people who aren't 25, white, and raised middle class. Because eventually, those people are going to turn 30 and stop caring about these kinds of stories.

of course, the filmmakers are so young, maybe their films will gain maturity as they gain maturity.

it'd be nice to see someone take the mumblecore ethos and merge it with some real, honest storytelling. Something with some dramatic heft behind it.

note: i'm sure someone will point out that someone has already done this, but i haven't seen it

snickers01 said...

Mumblecore? No thanks! I admire people who try to break conventional rules but I don't consider boring your audience to be all that groundbreaking. Where's the entertainment or intellectual stimulation? What aesthetic value am I suppose to get from these movies? Is there even anything which can be remotely called the antagonist? Maybe the characters' own laziness and lack of motivation to do anything relevent, perhaps? I'm a 24 year old white suburban male and I just don't care about these people! I already know my life is boring, why would I want to watch someone else's boring life? I want my imagination to be stimulated, not suppressed!

Jesús Elorriaga said...

A japanese mumblecore?, Check it out: http://www.vimeo.com/13032170