Trying to define "hipster film" is not really hipster. It goes against the independent subcultures that hipsters proclaim to inhabit. It's like, whatever, suit. Fuck off, what do you know? However, hipsters are everywhere, including the mainstream. America's socio-economic structure is shifting. We are evolving. Black presidents. Gay marriages. The matriarchal structure is stronger than ever--girl power, that's right.
All of this is reflected in hipster film. The following films fall into a strict paradigm. They appeal to late teens and early 20-somethings. The girls are quirky, weird, aloof, and usually not as in love with the boy as the boy is with them. In turn, the male leads are hyper-sensitive and overly emotional. They have blunt, sarcastic sidekicks. There's usually a scene at a record store or thrift shop. There could be weird camera work with an impromptu zine kind of feel. Maybe overuse of the jump cut, cut to, or voice-over. Here are prime examples:
Ellen Page is the hipster posterchild.
yamipaperdreams via flickr
Juno (2007) really kick-starts the hipster film motif, at least in modern times. Before Juno, contemporary hipster flicks like Garden State, Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, or Almost Famous
had female leads (Natalie Portman, Kate Winslet, and Kate Hudson) who
were Manic Pixie Dream Girls, wacky, quirky characters high-on-life
whose sole existence was to instill in brooding men the secrets of love
and the spirit of youth. In Juno, you have a quirky female
character who basically doesn't give a shit about the guy.
with this liberation the woman is no longer a light spirit--on the
contrary, she is darker, cynical, and more sarcastic. The aloofness and
loneliness in the powerful female lead is hipster and absolutely modern.
Juno did have Bleeker (Michael Cera), but their relationship was
off-balanced, he liked her more. They were in a band, totally hipster.
Juno debated indie music with Mark (Jason Bateman), which also reflects
this movie's hipsterdom, but her DYI attitude is what is intrinsically
Zooey Deschanel is very hipster, also.
T Hoffarth via flickr.
4. 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
500 Days of Summer
(2009) absolutely belongs on this list. Once again, the central plot of
the story revolves around a boy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who likes a girl
more than the girl likes him. They fall for each other upon discovery
that they both love The Smiths. How hipster is that? More importantly,
Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is yet another example of this female trope, an
aloof, quirky, introverted girl who basically doesn't know what she
Although she has the power, she's not necessarily interested in
it. Summer is in a band and her quirky hipster style lends one to think
she is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. But in fact, her character is way more
complicated and confusing. She's not a good girl. This hipster movie is
also replete with experimental cinematographic techniques. There's also a
scene at a music store. And the male has sarcastic sidekicks who give
him a hard time for his emo-ness.
Think Jewish hipsters.
3. Breaking Upwards
(2009) is hardly ground-breaking, mind-blowing or even a must-see. It's
sort of cliche and a little kitschy in its sentiment, but it possesses
the hipster spirit and falls into our paradigm. The characters are
neurotic and insecure, co-dependent and self-centered--traits
intrinsically screaming hipster, more specifically New York Jewish
hipster. The female lead is an aspiring actress; the male an emerging
writer--any artistic profession is indicative of hipster subculture.
In Breaking Upwards,
once again the male lead (Daryl) seems to like the girl a little bit
more while the female lead (Zoe) at times is completely disassociated
with feeling. What really makes this movie hipster is its $15,000
budget, ironic because the movie is set in an upper class Manhattan
world. Still, a 15K budget is nearly impossible for a feature. They cast
extras off Craigslist; it premiered at South by Southwest, all very
hipster. This cute movie epitomizes the indie flick and belongs on this
list for its DIY hipster ambition.
Set in Austin, TX, a hipster hangout.
2. Harmony and Me
Harmony and Me
(2009) is laugh-out-loud hipster heaven. It is a hilarious story of a
dead-pan boy, numb and heartbroken, as he tries to get over an aloof
girl. Harmony (Justin Rice) wears a plaid shirt in almost every scene
and shops at thrift stores. Hipster. He finds healing in music. Hipster.
The story is set in Austin. Next to Portland and Brooklyn, Austin,
Texas is hipster-ville.
Harmony also has a smorgasbord of blunt,
sarcastic and straightforward side-kicks, all within our hipster
paradigm. Finally, this low-budget production with non-professional
actors is wrapped in a tight script. Although lo-fi for sure, its
Rushmore-esque script eliminates any mumble-core associations. Hipster
Michael Cera equals half a hipster film.
1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
(2010) is very hipster. Once again, the male lead (Michael Cera) falls
in love with a girl who doesn't seem to love him as much as he loves
her. Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the perfect example of
the contemporary hipster woman motif, a brooding girl who is darker,
aloof, cynical, and slightly sarcastic. She has all the power but
doesn't desire it at all. In addition, the ex-boyfriends that Pilgrim
battle is basically a rundown of hipster subculture: an emo boy, a
skateboarder turned actor, a vegan bassist, a lesbian ninja, twin
Japanese musicians, and Jason Schwartzman.
By the way, almost any movie
with Cera or Schwartzman probably belongs on a hipster list. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
is also very hipster in its production. There are lots of experimental
film techniques and special effects. Being based on a graphic novel is
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of course hipster and zine-like. This movie premiered at Comic Con, San
Diego. Nuff said.