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I Am Not A Hipster | Blu-ray Review

Destin Daniel Cretton I Am Not A HipsterFollowing up his award winning short, Short Term 12, writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton returned to Sundance the following year with another personal reflection, this time on the San Diego indie scene through the eyes of young musician desperately trying to cope with his mother’s passing. The title I Am Not A Hipster suggests a focus on image and perception, which in fleeting instances come to fruition, but the film is really a heartfelt meditation on loss, loneliness, and art’s curious ability to both help process the past or flatly provide phlegmatic entertainment. Cretton’s feature is a work of deep emotion that showcases a breakout performance by Dominic Bogart and a wonderful original soundtrack by Joel P. West that stands center stage.

Brook (Bogart) has made a name for himself in the San Diego music scene with a powerful self recorded indie rock record and an enthralling live show, but his success seems futile in the face of the harsh world he inhibits. His friend and biggest fan, Clark (Alvaro Orlando), takes every opportunity to help promote him, but Clark’s efforts are wasted on a loathsome, unappreciative man who won’t allow anyone to get close. Ex-lovers have become social obstacles and low brow art a target of diverted condemnation, resulting in a public meltdown that burns some already unstable bridges. When his father and three sisters come to visit with the intention of spreading their mother’s ashes in the sea as a family, Brook stubbornly refuses to interact with his dad until it is of utmost necessity. As the shameful truth behind his despair is finally released, what is truly important becomes instantly clear.

Arrogantly, Brook looks down on Clark for his diverse musical taste and his involvement in creating pop art, but when the conflict rises to the forefront, the purpose of art is open to interpretation. Like the film itself, it can be created with the intention of entertaining, but it also can be a vehicle of emotional expression or a document of social commentary. Cretton’s discussion on art is completely alive, wholly relevant, and portrayed with humbling embarrassment that shakes Brook’s very core.

The film stands upon Bogart’s incredibly invidious, but commanding performance and the on screen realization of West’s affective score. There are a variety of devout live performances sprinkled throughout the film that induce hair raising goosebumps due to their heartfelt authenticity. Multiple scenes even depict the home recording process with astute realism, showing both the magic of what can be done with a personal computer, and the utter absurdity of recording alone in a room with headphones on.

I Am Not A Hipster will surely garner comparisons to Once, but only for its musical backbone. It is not a film hedged on romance. Cretton’s creation is one of fiction, yet it is constructed around personal experience. This fact profoundly pervades the film, feeling real and truthful at every turn. Though it follows the tried and true tortured artist narrative, it does so with intellectual conviction, appreciation for kinship, and natural style on every level. Cretton may not be a hipster after all, as he is crafting highly watchable, reflective cinema that scours him of puerile labels made for the uncreative.

The Disc:

Crowd funded and self released by the filmmakers themselves, the Blu-ray is a picture perfect match for the gorgeously lensed film. The HD image is incredibly crisp, near flawless, with greens and blues really coming to the forefront of the color palate. As a film that hinges on the aural experience, its wonderful to find the 5.1 Dolby track nice and full for the live musical numbers in particular. There are times where the rears seem a little empty though, specifically the party scenes, only mildly working around the peripherals. Unlike the darkly elegant DVD digipak case, the HD disc comes in a lighter styled standard Blu-ray case.

Making of Hipster
A quick, very funny self-filmed making of piece that sees Cretton, Bogart, Orlando, producer Ron Najor, and composer Joel P. West speaking about how the film came to be, as well as a glimpse from behind the camera on set (Cretton’s actual apartment) and in prep. 11 min

Sundance 2012 Performance
The trio that made Canines come alive on screen perform a song at the Sundance premiere in what looks to be the massive Eccles Theater. 5 min

Clark Art
Clark’s absurdist video centerpiece, ‘Don’t Talk With Your Eyes Full’, in its entirety. 4 min

Hyde Home Video
Upon the arrival of his family, the Brook and the Hyde sister’s watch a childhood family video. This is an extended bit with much more family filmmaking footage. 6 min

San Diego Premiere
Mostly a gratuitous bit with many complimentary crowd reaction comments, this featurette shows the film’s hometown premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. 2 min

Liquor Store Deleted Scene
There is a brief scene in the film where Clark unveils that he is riding on unemployment. Here, he goes into detail about why and how he continues to do so while he and Brook pick up some brews. 1 min

Thrift Store Deleted Scene
Holding the name of the film’s origin, this extended scene sees Brook trying to be friends with his ex while trying to stay cool when a meat-head shopper calls him a hipster. 7 min

Final Thoughts:

I Am Not A Hipster is a brilliantly assured first feature that boasts thematic richness, fully committed musical performances and honest, level-headed discussion of art and family. After being crazily overlooked this past year, Cretton’s film is finally seeing the light of day through a triple attack on a limited theater run, a barrage of VOD services, and this excellent home release. As a self released film, you can’t go wrong picking this up, as you’ll not only find a film worth watching many times over, but you’ll be directly supporting the artists in the process.

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