Saturday, March 6, 2010

Movies and Music

The year was 1999. I had just seen the film American Beauty, and after Magnolia, which I had seen just before, I remember marveling at the current state of American cinema. This was also the year of Being John Malkovich, Dogma, Matrix, the first Austin Powers movie, and Office Space.

At that time, as a member of the recording industry, I was envious that films with genuine craft, depth, and artistic aspiration were receiving mainstream distribution, selling well, and receiving awards (American Beauty won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director). Meanwhile, the U.S. recording industry was well on its way to the bottom. In particular there seemed to be a complete lack of creativity and aesthetic available in any way via the major recording companies. Independent labels were hurting, and Napster was just coming upon the scene... it was launched in mid-1999, but by the end of the year was only still largely relegated to tech geeks. The internet was not yet being used as a significant distribution point for music. 1999 may have been the last year that the majors controlled the game, and they were clearly blowing it.

Fast forward 10 years. This coming Sunday the Oscars will be presented to the best films of 2009. They've expanded the Best Picture nominations from 5 to 10 films, and I've seen all 10. And there's nothing even close to American Beauty among them. You won't find films of that merit right now in the "indie" cinemas right now either. The independent film business is hurting, especially distribution, and 2009 may be best remembered as the year that Disney, the owner of the iconic independent film company Miramax, downsized that division to a level which virtually guarantees its irrelevance.

Meanwhile, one could argue that the veritable death of the recording business has been great for music. Albums by artists like Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, and Animal Collective are now getting serious radio play, and penetrating the Billboard Top 20. Access to music of all kinds has never been easier... all you need is an internet (or cell phone data) connection. Maybe there was this much interesting music out there in 1999 and nobody had access to it, but that's clearly not an issue now. Maybe the same is true of the film business 10 years later... and it will take a major change in the business model for consumers to have access to the really good stuff...

* * * *

I've yet to take my second pass at my SXSW artist list, but as promised here are three that are near the top for checking out:

Smoke Fairies (U.K.)

Efterklang (Denmark)

Link here for the widescreen.



Veronica Fever said...

Total agreement on the Smoke Fairies. One of my favorites right any genre.

Mama E Dub said...

...and they must cross genres, because that's not this blogger's usual cup of tea. Would I drive 2000 miles to hear that Smoke Fairies vocalist live?
Wow. What pipes!
Bring 'em back for us, please!