Head to Head: Mainstream vs Indie Films


With the recent Oscar nominations rewarding a mix of indie and mainstream movies, Jon Hozier-Byrne and Anna Burzlaff tackle the age-old argument: which is better

Jon: Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Blah blah blah, predictable plots, blah blah blah, no artistic merit, blah blah blah, Avatar.” Well I won’t hear of it. Mainstream movies are mainstream for a reason – they’re the movies people want to see. You know, Bambi was a mainstream film. Do you hate Bambi, you beret-clad, heartless monster?

Anna: What’s that sound? All I can hear is “Zuuuuhhhhh”. Must be that your brain can no longer form a coherent sentence, being completely degenerated from watching Titanic for the 20th time.  Not only are mainstream movies the opium of idiots, they’re also Hollywood’s most unabashed form of greedy profit-making: as we speak, James Cameron is sitting on a pile of money manically laughing at you all for actually having paid to see Avatar!

Jon: Firstly, Titanic is a cracking film, as you well know. And yes, Avatar made a lot of money, and it did so because so many people wanted to see it. You know how much money The Room made? That had almost no special effects in it, therefore it’s bad. That ‘film’ is a prime example of why studios exist. You only like indie films because you’re supposed to, because it looks good on your ‘favourite movies’ info on Facebook. It’s total intellectual wankery – “oh look, it’s Ryan Gosling, he’s playing the ukulele and he’s sad”. Brilliant.

Anna: The Room is hardly a result of indie filmmaking. It’s what happened when some lunatic gave Tommy Wiseau a camera. I can understand why you’d think indie films are for pretentious posers, because let’s face it; any piece of art that asks you to think beyond the point that you’ve finished your popcorn is too much for you to handle. You have to dismiss indie films to avoid being caught out as the brainless mass of flesh you are.

Mainstream culture as a whole gives us nothing above and beyond the indifferent and the mind-numbing. Indie movies escape the grasp of corporate Hollywood and are therefore free to form their own messages that go beyond plugging commercial products. Mainstream movies gave us Sex and the City 2. Need I say more?

Jon: Here’s a list of everything you need to make an indie film. Hand-drawn bubble writing on the poster? Check. A massive sense of resentment against your parents? Check. Philip Seymour Hoffman? Check. How exactly do you think indie movies escape corporate Hollywood? They spend millions of dollars trying desperately to make it look like they spent nothing at all. How do you think Jennifer Garner, Michael Cera and Jason Bateman got talked into starring in Juno? Was it because Jason Reitman promised to be their best friend forever?

Anna: Perhaps they decided to be in Juno because of the excellent script and brilliant characters; they may be mythical concepts to you mainstream moviegoers, but they do in fact exist. While you’ve been off drooling over Robert Pattinson in the Twilight Saga (there’s no use denying your man love any longer), fans of indie cinema have been watching movies which contain relevant and provocative themes.  Complexity and hidden meaning in mainstream cinema reached its height with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

Jon: Excellent script? Brilliant characters? I know you’re a habitual drug user, but how high must have you have been when you watched that piece of utter pretentious crap? What you call brilliant characterisation, I call weird for the sake of weird. She’s a pregnant outsider who listens to the Stooges? He’s an awkward runner who likes TicTacs? Sign me up! Oh, and it was written by a member of the sex trade, so it must be great. God damn it Burzlaff, sometimes I wonder. And for your information, I’m Team Jacob.

Anna: You know what, we’ve been tiptoeing around this for a while now, and I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m pretentious and I’m proud. So what if indie movie are ostentatious, bizarre, intellectual try-hards – at least they give us something to talk about.

Spare a thought for the Arts students; where would they be without directors like David Lynch and Vincent Gallo? What would we muse about over our exorbitantly priced coffee? You may deny it, but a world without absurd Jean-Luc Godard references is simply not a world worth living in. Down with mainstream once and for all I say! Truly, what does mainstream give us beyond a pair of disposable 3D glasses?

Jon: I concede, you’re right. Without that kind of intellectual self-manipulation, Arts students would probably be on the dole contributing nothing to society! Wait…