The download of the week is Indie Game: The Movie. On the surface, it's a Canadian-made documentary about a handful of video game programmers who operate outside the mainstream gaming industry and produce highly personal and, dare I say artistic, video games.
As a well-crafted glimpse into a niche culture this film works amazingly, even for non-gamers. The good thing about computer programmers and hardcore game freaks is that although many of them are socially lacking (dorks, basically) they're certainly not stupid — Indie Game's subjects speak with eloquence, insight and undeniable charisma.
Although it touches on the perils of overnight success and the insanity of an Internet-based audience, Indie Game primarily follows the makers of two games, "Fez" and "Super Meat Boy," as their creators navigate the trials of being the little guy trying to make it in the big guy's world.
Indie Game is an underdog story. Big video games will have thousands of people working for years to create the final product. "Super Meat Boy" has Edmund and Tommy, two nice guys pulling all-nighters for years while struggling with the emotional, financial and physical demands of finishing their game in time for Microsoft's big deadline.
And then there's Phil Fish. A slightly over-dramatic Montrealer, Fish and his game "Fez" made a big splash in 2008, but have since missed every development deadline. The pain of artistic creation and the quest for acceptance/understanding have perhaps never been more visible than in a scene where Fish watches others play, review and delve into his game. Filmmakers Lisa Pajot and James Swirsky have made a very honest film.
But what's equally amazing is how this flick got made at all. The entire film was funded via Kickstarter, an Internet-based funding platform where the general public donates to projects and ideas that interest them. Much like its subject matter, Indie Game was created, and has succeeded, outside the "regular" filmmaking paradigm.
Watching the credits, thousands of names of people who donated to make this film happen, is like watching a new era arrive. So long as big business and government don't continuously collaborate to stifle ingenuity and progress, real art has a chance. So long as the mass media doesn't lull our populace into a catatonic state of comfort-distracted apathy and the Internet remains "of the people, for the people," anyone with a good idea ought to be able to find their funding. We'll see.
Video games are mass culture, anyone younger than 35 has grown up with them their entire lives. And while Indie Game isn't the best video-game flick of late (King of Kong still takes that) it certainly cements the concepts of video games as an art form. Find it on iTunes, Stream or Direct Download. (And a shout-out to Vince Shuley for making sure I watched it.)
At the Village 8 and Garibaldi 5 this week we have Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a revisionist tale that sets up America's greatest president as a shit-kicking vampire slayer on a revenge trip. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) this one contains all the history and violence you'd expect but doesn't have quite as much fun as it could. It's no Billy the Kid vs. Dracula but is better than producer Tim Burton's last vampiric offering, Dark Shadows, which kinda sucked (and not blood.)
Also dropping Friday, Brave, a Disney/Pixar flick about a young Scottish Princess who bucks the trend and makes her own fate, or something.