Tag Archives: movies

Johnny Depp Explains What He Was Thinking

oh130724I haven’t see The Lone Ranger, but it sounds like a real mess. I’m acquainted with one of the writers, so I’m anxious to hear what happened behind the scenes. Train wrecks like The Lone Ranger have many causes. Most likely there was a lack of consensus on tone and style. These huge tentpole movies are made by committee. And committees aren’t known for having a coherent, consistent singular vision.

Another explanation is that it’s really, really hard to make a great movie. Too many things can go wrong. When it happens it’s like a happy accident.

When it doesn’t…

…crap happens.

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Mock’Em, Stop’Em Robots

oh130722This is the summer of the mega-block buster duds from the Hollywood clone factories. Pacific Rim, Lone Ranger, White House Down, Turbo and others have gone down in flames. Given Hollywood’s pathological aversion to risk and long-ago succesion of power to accountants, these present day disasters aren’t surprising. All the above films were green-lit 3-4 years ago in the middle of a successful run of huge budget summer popcorn movies. The problem is, it’s folly to base future offerings on present day results. Too many variables. Too much will change. Too hard to predict the public’s taste. Yet they do it anyway.

The solution: Make more cheaper movies of varying genres and risk assumptions. For every Lone Ranger which clocked in at over $200 million, you could make almost seven $30 million dollar movies.  Experiment. Run some of the films day and date in theaters, pay-per-view and online.

This is sort of what’s done in publishing with a high volume of titles produced for modest costs to deliver a few best-sellers — which in turn support the  high volume of titles.

Of course, no one will take my advice because of the weak link in film making: humans. You get on the map making small movies that break out, but you don’t stay there by making small movies. It’s a front-end loaded business. Most of Hollywood, from everyone above the line to agents and lawyers all make money from failure. Or, more precisely, from pre-failure. When the economic model for success in Hollywood (for individuals) has nothing to do with whether a film succeeds or not then you’ve got a real long term problem.  If Hollywood took my advice they would be shifting the risk from financiers to the individuals that package and make the films (which is happening to some extent). They would also be shifting the reward in the same direction (which is not happening to any extent). But it won’t happen, because most people are naturally conservative and will value stability over progress.

That is, until the stable life you’ve built slides into the ocean during a mud slide of mediocre movies.

 

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Lucky Punks

The Super Bowl Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad was fascinating for a couple of odd contradictory reasons.  First, Chrysler wouldn’t exist without your and my tax dollars (and Fiat).  And second, Eastwood, a republican, is almost the living personification of  American individualism.

What was Eastwood trying to say?  It sounded to me like the message was if we work together we can do anything.  We can even save a car company that produced the 2002 Dodge Stratus that has a tendency to lose it’s front bumper every time it bottoms out on a steep driveway (full disclosure: my daughter drives one and I’ve reattached that bumper many times).

I happen to think it was probably a good thing that we saved Chrysler (despite the bumper, the Stratus has been pretty reliable).  America is both a land of opportunity and second halves.  And second (third, forth, fifth) chances.  We will come roaring back.

But not without help.

Back in the 70′s, Eastwood played a rogue cop that pointed a Smith & Wesson at a suspect and said, “…ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do you punk?”  A couple of years ago he played a misanthrope retired auto worker who overcame his prejudices to help his immigrant Hmong neighbors survive in modern day Detroit.

Clint’s evolved.  And I think so have we.  Do I feel lucky to live in a country that is slowly, grudgingly, ever-so-reluctantly starting to realize we’re not at our best when we’re  just collection of loose cannons firing randomly in the dark?

Yeah, I do.

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War Raccoon: Spielberg Got It Wrong

Anotherbozo over at comics.com commented, “this strip goes anywhere it damn well pleases. and I keep coming back!”

Over the Hedge:  Equal opportunity masochistic enablers since 1995.  And sock puppets!

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Happy Mayan Last Year

There’s two reasons I’m certain the 2012 Mayan calendar end-o-time thing is bullshit.

Nick Cage has about 30 films coming out in the next two years.  And I have two books coming out in 2013.

And since the entire universe revolves around Nick and me, we’re ALL safe from Mayanageddon.

You’re welcome.

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Obi-Wan Hamobi

Over the Hedge

You have to believe  Sir Alec Guinness must have really needed the money to take the part of Obi-Wan in Star Wars.  Even though George Lucas had done American Graffiti, a space opera about some silly sounding Force had to have been a real leap for all involved.   Yet, in the end, it worked.

Star Wars worked because it was earnest, authentic and had a damn good story.  I was fortunate enough to hear screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) speak on story structure at the Austin Film Festival last October.  He compared the structure of Star Wars to the Graduate and his own Little Miss Sunshine.   You would think those three movies would have nothing in common, but in fact they share what’s common in most good films:  a solid traditional three act structure with involving character arcs with both strong physical and psychological goals.

Unfortunately, Lucas forgot what he knew about structure and character with the last (or the first) three Star Wars films.  They were all bloated, bland and boring.   I cared about Luke’s journey.  Anakin, not so much.  And the worst part?  No Han Solo.  This sort of stuff really needs a an audience surrogate who says,  “Are you fucking kidding me?”   Jar-jar Binks was more, “Meesa not fucking kidding you.”

Anyway, those first two (or middle two) still hold up.  It’s still the summer of ’77, I’m still 17, sitting in the third row of a theater in Columbus, Georgia watching Luke Luke and Artoo and the Force  in the X-wing fire the shot that destroys the Death Star.

Time travel exists.  All you need is a good movie.

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What’s Wrong with Movies Today

Saw this comment from “DK” on a weekend box office recap story on Deadline.com.   I thought he/she perfectly summed up the movie business this summer.   My favorite line, “We really don’t have the money to go and gamble on whether or not Knight & Day might be “pretty entertaining.” A dime-sack is pretty entertaining, too.”

“No one in the 14-25 demographic is going to the movies, but don’t blame us for all this lackluster performance: We don’t have any money! Downsizing comes down the hardest on retailers, so it’s a little hard for me to go splurging on these outrageous ticket prices when I don’t even work forty hours a week delivering pizza.

The last straw for me was Alice in Wonderland: Me and my friends were all fired up to see it, and even though we weren’t making much, we somehow mustered the $14 a pop required for IMAX seating and took the long drive from our rural town to the theater, not to mention the joint we smoked before the movie. And what happened? The movie sucked, that’s what happened: Totally squandered all of its thematic and 3-D potential.

I didn’t see another movie until Kick-Ass, and most of my friends stayed home for that one, waiting for Nightmare on Elm Street. You see how this works? We really don’t have the money to go and gamble on whether or not Knight & Day might be “pretty entertaining.” A dime-sack is pretty entertaining, too.

Seriously, I’m waiting in line for my ticket and I look at the admission fees: Most theaters around here are pushing ten bucks for a matinee! Are we going to the movies or boarding a train? Remember when eight bucks for a night show was considered steep?

We did end up seeing Toy Story, though… if you create something that’s genuinely damn good, it will attract patrons, period. Not just semi-good, ala Knight & Day, or pretty good, ala Get Him to the Greek, or something debatable like Shrek Forever After. Make a great movie and it will eventually find its audience.

The music industry is supposedly dead, right? Well, earlier this week, I marched my broke ass to Best Buy and picked up Recovery, the first CD I’ve purchased in a really long time. Great album, by the way: Just the kind of creative adrenaline this washed-up industries need. Same for film with Toy Story 3.”

Comment by DK

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