The broken promise of IFC, the “Indie” Film Channel

ifcLord have mercy, what has become of the promising-on-paper Independent Film Channel, IFC?

“Con Air.” “Dukes of Hazzard.” “Lethal Weapon” sequels ad nauseum.

As I have complained on their Facebook page, there’s already a cable channel for crap “so bad it’s almost good” (as if there is such a thing, and there isn’t). It’s called SPIKE TV. Then there’s FX and its sisters.

As a film critic, I get “Wanna review this?” notices from publicists for probably 1000 movies per year. I see maybe half. Little studios, from Monterey Media and Magnolia and Magnet to Monument and High Top and so many others take their shot and you’d think IFC would be their films’ Final Destination.

Most of these movies had at least the cachet to get made, to attract at least one B-list or former A-lister.

Katie Holmes turns up in “Miss Meadows,” dark and darker.

Anne Hathaway takes a flier on “Song One.” Shouldn’t you?

Look at the past month of Movie Nation’s site’s archives, scores of titles that earned only limited release, some of them perfectly worthy of your time (between commercials). What is IFC showing? Endless reruns of “That 70s Show.” Wait, the pot jokes made this Fox series “indie?” And…middling original shows (the un-acquired taste “Stan Against Evil”, the acquired taste “Portlandia”). Those, and a sea of films that were never Indie. Ever.

I drop by IFC on nights (and there are plenty) when HBO is showing retreads or movies fresh to TV but which I suffered through in a theater, and never will again. I almost never see anything worth taping or even surfing through between ad blocs on IFC.

I know that AMC and assorted other “movie” networks have gone all-in on original programming. And the streaming services give you access to a buffet of titles on all manner of devices, competition that wasn’t around when AMC was showing actual “American Movie Classics,” and IFC was being brought to life. So the business model that they’re relying on has to evolve to reflect the competition.

But seriously, the bar on “original content” needs to be higher, and showcasing more indie film fare isn’t at all menaced by the many a la carte platforms out there. “Miss Meadows” ain’t trending on Netflix. FilmStruck, a newer streaming service offering classic films, could be a threat. But are they “indie”? Not yet.

What to offer? How about cheap and spooky horror such as “13 Cameras,” or “The Good Neighbor”? James Caan was in the latter.

Why not an “epic” that was based on a book that was a hit overseas? “The Physician” co-starred Ben Kinglsey and Stellan Skarsgaard, and my review piles up web traffic every day for YEARS after its release. Never seen it on any cable channel.

Documentaries pour out by the dozens every week –on racial injustice, Toshiro Mifune, water rights issues and the history of the VW bug. There are places some of this stuff shows up on TV, but they’re a lot harder to find than the channel allegedly built on “Indie” films.

I’ve all but given up on you guys. The twee charms of “Portlandia” are just that. And make your teeth ache after short exposure.

Maybe you figured you tried the “Indie” thing, and decided the returns were too poor to justify sustaining that as a business model. AMC used to be “American Movie Classics,” with no commercials, after all. One “Mad Men” and a few “Walking Deads” later, that’s gone by the boards.

We’re talking about niche cable numbers, and even IFC’s “hit” series aren’t doing Trevor Noah re-run ratings. What have you got to lose by remembering your original mission?

At this point, I’m taking your corporate slogan to heart. If you don’t show something off the beaten path and cinematic, you’ll remain “slightly off” in my house.

 

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