20-Something, Film, Music, Pop Culture

The Indie-Urban Existential Crisis

I’m reaching an age where it takes a lot for me to stay focused and interested in contemporary independent film and music.

I’m reaching an age where unless a film has a point or a song is originally written, displays some sort of individual talent and doesn’t sound like a band I heard back in the 60’s-90’s, I fall asleep, turn it off, or get up and leave.

This sort of behavior does not make it easy for me to go to the theater with friends or listen to music recommendations. Because of this, I’m absolutely not in the know on what is indie-urban popular, because, well, most of the time I think it’s absolute shit.

This goes against the idea of being a “hipstercrite”, I guess. I really can’t go on and on about how I hate Lana Del Rey, talk about what movies are currently hot at Sundance or manifest Ryan Gosling memes.

The alternative, the irreverent and the ironic is my bag, but lately I’m finding a lot of it forced and showing lack of skill. More often than that, I’m finding that all of it seems like a constant rehashing of other’s work. The awkward jokes I’ve heard before, the mumbling true-to-life dialogue is overplayed and the beats sound like everything we listened to back in the 80’s.

I can not fall into the group who says they loved Bellflower even when I didn’t. I just can’t.

This discovery has become very disheartening to me because the independent spirit is the only mantra I want to live by.

A film I recently watched that helped me to realize my apathy towards independent contemporary work is Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham.

If you’re not familiar with this film, it is the more than loosely-based story of the now 25 year-old filmmaker’s post-collegiate life. From what I’ve read- because I could not get through the entire film- I don’t think much happens in the story other than a early twenty-something making bad choices and asking the question, “What do I do with my life?”. The film stars her mother and sisters as their film-counterparts and Dunham acts as herself, sans make-up, with unflattering clothing choices and all.

Dear God I wanted to like this film. When explained to me and then while watching the trailer, I was convinced this was going to become my new favorite movie. I loved that Dunham wasn’t trying to become some glamorous actress but rather said, “This is me! Cellulite, pimples and all!”

I loved that this was going to be a story I could relate to.

I loved that a young woman wrote and directed it.

What I found instead was a story completely unrelatable with a filmmaking technique, that though popular with others, I find skillfully questionable. The heroine drifts through her twenty-second year going to art shows, living in her artist mother’s TriBeCa loft and having witty “Gilmore”-esque battles with her sister. Though the dialogue could often be clever, I found that the script was a Juno-“Gossip Girl” hybrid that made it impossible for me to find a side to latch onto. I found myself thinking something critics stated that I didn’t want to think- The character was whiny and annoying.

But I wanted to like her! This was to be my story too!

The shots in the film were stationary, which though many scenes were filmed in interesting locations (mother’s loft, East Village fire escapes) and therefore looked like a photograph, I often find such shots ineffective at propelling the story along. This idea can work when you’re Wes Anderson and have a cast that consists of seasoned talent, which are two things this film did not have.

After turning off the movie, I had to have a sit down with my self and ask, “Lauren, are you just not a fan of this movie because you are jealous? Because you want to be a 25 year-old indie darling?” After much though it was then I realized that I could no longer relate to many of the work coming out of independent cinema and music.

Many others liked Tiny Furniture and I’m glad that they did. The film won festival awards and Dunham has since landed a deal with HBO to create and star in a similar mumblecore story about young women living in New York City called “Girls“. A TV show that I feel my cultural make-up should like, but I ultimately won’t.

Lately I’ve found myself enjoying more conventional film and music and I want to throw myself off a bridge.

What happened to me? Has independent art drifted into an area I can no longer stand behind, or am I just growing up?

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  • Reply Avy January 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I think you’re just growing up. When we get older we get tired, at least that’s true for me.

    / Avy

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Ha. I’m tired all of the time. I want to nap….a lot.

  • Reply Adria January 25, 2012 at 5:51 am

    This is very, very well-written and I feel similarly in many ways, but not about “Tiny Furniture”. At times I was bored, at times I wondered, “why all the fuss?”, but ultimately it resonated with me. I’m not here to tell you why you should like that particular film, but maybe just explain why I think I did. First of all, I watched it while I was home for the holidays, while lying in my childhood bed, more precisely, so it struck a chord with where I was at that exact moment, for sure.

    Also, there was something about the tedious nature of the character’s every day life, when there just shouldn’t have been. The idea that she’s a privileged young girl with a good education and a good family background, but she’s just sort of…at a loss for what to do. I don’t know, does the world need another “pity me, I come from money and I’m confused” story? Probably not, but I related to it. Sue me and my upper middle class blase.

    This is seemingly unrelated, but have you seen “Withnail and I”? It’s a British film from 1987. Maybe you have seen it, maybe not, it’s a little bit (oddly) similar in topic. I don’t know, try it on for size.

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Thanks, Adria! I seriously wanted to love that movie because of things you said, but I just didn’t. Maybe I should give it another shot though.

  • Reply Stephanie January 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    What’s wrong with conventional film/music? Is it not good if other people like it?

    You are still willing to listen to indie music or watch indie films. You are able to judge them based on your tastes, instead of automatically liking them because they’re indie. That’s a good place to be.

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      I agree!!!

  • Reply Carrie Clevenger January 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Hard to say. Could be that you’re looking at Austin local hipster scenes? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve done the opposite and gravitated from conventional to Indie, to the point of immersing myself in ONLY Indie, but it’s a Global love, with concentrations around London and NY/Brooklyn/LA especially.

    Austin tends baffle me.

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      You know, Carrie? You could be right. I’m basing it off of what people find popular here, but I feel that it’s similar in what is popular in other major cities? Maybe not. I don’t know. Good question though.

  • Reply Carrie Clevenger January 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Trends. I meant TRENDS. #$%$ing keyboard.

  • Reply Tab January 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I totally agree with you. It’s actually a little bit comforting to know that someone feels the same, because actually i’ve been experiencing a little “post indie enthralled guilt” hah! but, i just dont feel it anymore – it seems to me that you can see the artist trying too hard to be not trying at all. For me, that’s completely distracting and dare I say…boring eep!

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Oh good! I’m glad I’m not the only that feels that way!

  • Reply Scott Tammaro January 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I think it’s just a matter of growing…

    I actually went to a Journey concert in ’79 (and threw up) but soon after my tastes changed dramatically.

    And, unlike my peers who’re still “Play some Skynrd!” & don’t give anything new or different a chance, I liked to investigate a lotta new music.

    Cultivate your curiosity.

    Besides, it’s much more fun to be an explorer…

    • Reply hipstercrite January 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      You threw up at a Journey concert?!

      • Reply Scott Tammaro January 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

        Yep, sure did.

        I was 17, liquored up, & listening to Journey’s music.

        A lethal cocktail for sure.

  • Reply Carol January 26, 2012 at 4:26 am

    When you’re 16 everything is GENIUS because you haven’t seen or heard it before. As you get older you begin to realize how derivative most things are. It’s harder to be impressed. Hell, I don’t like ANYTHING anymore. Except Shakey’s pizza. I’ve been eating it since I was 8 and it never gets old!

  • Reply Ben January 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I felt very similarly about Tiny Furniture, so it was good to read your post. I reacted to it with a hint of jealousy, I think. I thought to myself, “If I had the connections she had, I could have made this movie.” It’s more than just sour grapes because I made a short movie (and have written pieces of a feature-length version) that’s somewhat similar to Tiny Furniture, except that it’s about a middle-class hipster dude who’s stranded in his parents’ house in Queens while his friends live in the cool parts of the city. It also has a beginning, middle and end, which Tiny Furniture only sort of does.
    Anyway, TF is an interesting phenomenon because the people I’ve met people who liked it, but I’ve never met a filmmaker who liked it.
    What I mean is, maybe your reaction is the filmmaker in you. Maybe you’re realizing that, if you had the resources she had, you could have made the same movie, but made it into something you’d actually want to watch.

  • Reply icyhighs January 29, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Yet to watch Tiny Furniture but you’re not the only one going through this. Its part of growing up I think (but it could also be that you stick to Austinpop?) The same skinny jeans, the same (non)ironic verbal vitriol, it all starts taking its toll, and one fine day you realize: bloody hell nothing’s original anymore! Might as well stick with the superior production values and popcorn.

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