An Independent Frame of Mind

On occasion, some of my closest friends have been known to call me an entertainment snob. I’ll bring up a not-so-obscure yet still indie band and, upon discovering that they don’t know whom I’m talking about, people shoot me dirty looks.

I never know how to respond to their allegations of snobbery. I’ve tried to explain that I like mainstream movies and music just as much as unknown stuff, but it never seems to appease anyone.

What’s my new approach to addressing the movie snob debate, you ask? I like to say that I’m a “movie sponge,” one who has seen the best and the worst of the movies out there. I think I can reliably recognize greatness wherever it appears.

For instance, I saw Easy A last weekend and absolutely fell in love with it. Emma Stone was refreshing and bubbly as Olive and Amanda Bynes made a welcome return as Marianne, head of the school’s prayer group.

At the same time, I can appreciate the whimsy behind movies like the new Kings of Pastry. Technically an independent movie because of its relatively low exposure, budget, and star power, Pastry is like a French movie-adaptation of TLC’s hit show Cake Boss. Put something like this on TV, and it attracts a huge crowd on a niche television channel, but all of a sudden it becomes an “indie movie” because American audiences won’t embrace it.

Thus ends my mini rant. Let me get back on topic. Sometimes I’m asked why I prefer independent movies to mainstream Hollywood, and I really appreciate the question. It means that people are curious rather than annoyed with my choices.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like any kind of movie more than another. Read some of my reviews on The Heights’ Web site and you’ll see that I reviewed films like Remember Me, Date Night, and The Backup Plan.

“But you gave those movies bad reviews,” you might say. Look closer, I beg of you. I thought Date Night was trite but I loved Tina Fey and Steve Carell so much that it hurt to see them stumble through the film’s few lame scenes.

I thought Jennifer Lopez made a graceful and quite funny return to form in The Backup Plan. I think anyone over the age of 16 would be hard pressed to find anything good about Remember Me, but I was elated to discover a talented young actress named Ruby Jerins nestled among the cast, like a diamond in the rough.

Even just by writing this column about why I like indie movies makes me a target for people who think I’m a movie snob, but at the same time, I feel stupid about having to justify something that I don’t think requires any explanation.

I don’t look down upon anyone for the entertainment with which they choose to spend their time. At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to deem people who like watching good movies “snobs,” and I also wouldn’t look down on anyone’s way of escaping (because that’s what the best kind of entertainment is sometimes) as “trash.”

Sure, I may recommend the new Maximum Balloon album to someone, but I would just as soon sit down and watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey with my very Italian mother. Sometimes, I feel like reading a Jonathan Franzen novel; most of the time, the thought of nestling up in my Snuggie with the new book by Maggie Griffin (yes, Kathy’s mother) seems so much more appealing.

So please don’t hesitate to discuss movies just because I’m in your presence, and as Bette Davis once said, “Don’t take the movies so seriously … anyone who does is in for a headache.”

September 29, 2010