Judge Paul Pritchard is fiercely independent and he has numerous personal assistants who will testify to that.
"I put my nuts on the chopping block, and everybody wanted to be a butcher."
"Those who can't do, review."—Morty Fineman on his critics.
Facts of the Case
The Independent is the story of one man's love of film. That man is Morty Fineman, one of the most prolific filmmakers in the business (427 films and counting), it is on the set of his 428th movie, Ms. Kervorkian where we first meet Fineman just as he discovers his funding has been cut and his production has been shut down.
Seeking help from his estranged daughter Paloma (Janeane Garofalo, The Truth about Cats and Dogs), Fineman sets about raising the money to keep his production company going. When all seems lost, hope comes in the form of a serial killer who is prepared to sell Fineman the rights to his story…if he agrees to makes it a musical.
Applying the This is Spinal Tap approach to the world of movies, The Independent is the affectionate yet hilarious story of schlock filmmaker Morty Fineman (Jerry Stiller, Hairspray). Mixing a traditional film structure with interviews from Fineman's celebrity fans (who include Ron Howard and Peter Bogdanovich), Stephen Kessler's movie, released back in 2000, still remains off most people's radar, something this DVD release hopes to set right.
For fans of B-movies I cannot recommend The Independent highly enough. The film is a love letter to trash cinema and the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes only to face a critical mauling for their efforts. To see this film is to understand that for every film you've ever lambasted, there is at least one person working on it who truly believes in it and passionately fights to achieve their vision. And yet, despite being set in the world of trash cinema, the film itself is surprisingly well-structured; there is a strong central plot with great characters and an almost endless stream of laughs.
As we see Morty Fineman's attempts to raise the funding necessary to continue his latest project, we get to learn about the man himself, both from witnessing him firsthand ourselves, and from the interviews provided by his friends and peers that punctuate the movie. Playing filmmaker Morty Fineman with gusto, Jerry Stiller's performance ultimately carries The Independent. While the whole cast is note-perfect, were it not for Stiller (who is in nearly every scene), the film would lose its soul. So convincing is he that, while we may laugh at his glorious failures, we come to love the man and admire his passion. For Fineman, box-office receipts are of little interest, all he is seeking in return for his hard work and passion is a little respect.
In a clever move by the filmmakers we are not left to merely wonder how bad Fineman's movies are, we get to see them. Littered throughout the movie are numerous trailers from Fineman's back catalog; if you found the fake trailers in Grindhouse to be a highlight, prepare to embrace The Independent. Just as imaginative, trashy, and downright hilarious as the trailers produced by Rodriguez, Zombie, and Co., the glimpses we get of Fineman's work are worth the price of the DVD alone. From his action/thriller where all the good guys are bald Bald Justice to his attempt at social commentary regarding the war in Vietnam, Brothers Divided, where conjoined twins with opposing views on the war get drafted, the trailers will make your sides ache with laughter and yet, at the same time, have you wishing these movies were real and available for you to go out and purchase immediately.
Picture quality on the disc is a little inconsistent, while this is down to the various styles used to present the film; the image is never particularly impressive though it is serviceable.
Special features are certainly worth making time for, the highlight being the deleted scenes, which include trailers shot for, but never used in, the movie.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Independent is very much aimed at those who have a deep love of film. There is a chance that the more casual viewer may not appreciate the in-jokes while some of the references will pass by unnoticed.
While watching The Independent I realized that, if I could come to respect a hack like Morty Fineman, surely I could find it in my heart to cut Uwe Boll a little slack. After all, he certainly seems to have a passion for film and is prolific and…Oh, who am I kidding? The guy sucks.
Already eight years old, The Independent looks to have missed its chance of achieving cult classic status. I sincerely hope this DVD release helps rectify that. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Allumination Filmworks
• Commentary by Jerry Stiller and the Filmmakers.
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