America's independent films often seem to defy classification. Their strategies of storytelling and representation range from raw, no-budget projects to more polished releases of Hollywood's "specialty" divisions. Yet understanding American indies involves more than just considering films. Filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors, festivals, critics, and audiences all shape the art's identity, which is always understood in relation to the Hollywood mainstream. By locating the American indie film in the historical context of the "Sundance-Miramax" era (the mid-1980s to the end of the 2000s), Michael Z. Newman considers indie cinema as an alternative American film culture. His work isolates patterns of character and realism, formal play, and oppositionality and the functions of the festivals, art houses, and critical media promoting them. He also accounts for the power of audiences to identify indie films in distinction to mainstream Hollywood and to seek socially emblematic characters and playful form in their narratives.
Analyzing films such as Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), Lost in Translation (2003), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Juno (2007), along with the work of Nicole Holofcener, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh, and the Coen brothers, Newman investigates the conventions that cast indies as culturally legitimate works of art. He binds these diverse works together within a cluster of distinct viewing strategies and invites a reevaluation of the difference of independent cinema and its relationship to class and taste culture.
Michael Z. Newman is an assistant professor of media studies in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He blogs at zigzigger.blogspot.com.
Acknowledgments Introduction Part I: Context 1. Indie Cinema Viewing Strategies 2. Home Is Where the Art Is: Indie Film Institutions Part II: Character 3. Indie Realism: Character-Centered Narrative and Social Engagement Part III: Formal Play 4. Pastiche as Play: The Coen Brothers 5. Games of Narrative Form: Pulp Fiction and Beyond Part IV: Against Hollywood 6. Indie Opposition: Happiness vs. Juno Notes Bibliography Index