September 17, 2006

Reviewing Native movies

How to Review a Bad Movie (or Better Yet, Avoid Them Altogether...…)

I say hold Native movies to the same standard as any other movie. If you want 1-2 hours of my time, I want a good movie. And by that I mean a story that works--that entertains and enlightens--not glitzy production values. A good story costs nothing to develop and is priceless when done right (which is all too rare, alas).

My favorite Native movie (so far) is probably The Business of Fancydancing, which is probably one of the lowest-budget Native movies ever made. Movies like Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Fast Runner probably didn't cost much (except for the location shooting) either. It's not about whether you have big-name talent or cutting-edge technology; it's about whether you can tell a real story with real characters.

In short, if the writing is there, the rest will follow. If it isn't, no amount of acting, directing, filming, or editing can make it more than a glossy piece of mediocrity.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, homedog...;)

Rob said...

I'm glad we're in sync. But from what I've read of your reviews, they're more positive than mine are. ;-)

Anonymous said...

ummmm...true. But that's because I try to AVOID the real stinkers. Or maybe it's because I'm a sucker for the underdog. Or maybe both...;)

Rob said...

The Business of Fancydancing is out on DVD. In fact, you can order it through my website.

You're right about Sherman Alexie and Chris Eyre. I think they had a falling out. I don't know if Alexie produced Fancydancing, but he wrote and directed it.

If you match the titles to the descriptions in the order you wrote them, you have Smoke Signals and Skins down correctly. I give them both 8.0s, which is pretty good. But unlike many people, I don't rave about Smoke Signals as if it's a masterpiece. In my mind, Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart, and even Pocahontas are better movies.

I'd say the same thing came out of Wounded Knee II as out of Alcatraz. Namely, renewed Indian pride and determination to challenge the establishment. But I can't say for sure since I was only a teen then.

Anonymous said...

Let's see..."Smoke Signals?" Not too great; I'd give it a "6." "The Business of Fancydancing," was better--largely because of Evan Adams in the lead role--but fell short because Alexie's egotistical fingerprints were all over it. Still, worth seeing since the premise of a conflicted gay poet is a great story.

But one thing I do disagree with both of you on is that budgets do count. Try making a seamless movie with a knock-em-dead soundtrack and special effects, a cast of thousands and costuming to die for. That's what I'm referring to. Small movies--and some of the films I'm talking about cost less than $100,000, maybe $50,000--are never ever going to compete with that, nor should they be evaluated the same way. Nevertheless, a good script, good acting--those factors should be considered in any production, large or small.

Rob said...

Clearly, you can make movies with big budgets that you can't make with small budgets. Peter Jackson's King Kong would've been impossible without today's technology, for instance. And (sorry, traditionalists) it was a notable improvement over the original in most ways.

But a lot of movies waste their big budgets on things that don't improve the results. That's why movies like Rocky or The Terminator are better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Big budgets can't rescue a bad movie; they can only enhance a good movie.

Rob said...

The most notable point about the indigenous people in the new Kong is that they're cruel savages who practice human sacrifice. If they were American Indians instead of Asians, I'd lambaste the movie as stereotypical.

I don't know anything about War Party, although it's on my list of Native movies. On my Customer page, I've linked to what I consider the best movies--the ones people should buy. It takes work to set up these links so I don't want to link to every possible movie.