July 31, 2011

ON THE OTHER HAND, AS GLOBALIZATION CONTINUES APACE THEY'LL BE ABLE TO RETURN TO MAKING GOOD ONES:

Everything that's wrong with Hollywood (KYLE SMITH, July 31, 2011, NY Post)

* China sucks. You hate China. I hate China. Everybody hates China -- for now. In 20 years, when Hollywood is done re-educating us, we'll all feel as warm and fuzzy about China as we do about Derek Jeter. Because movies are happy to put ridiculously pro-China propaganda in films like "The Karate Kid" remake and "2012" in return for a) large checks from China and b) approval to open their movies in China's fast-growing multiplex market. The upcoming "Red Dawn" remake just digitally switched the villains from Chinese to North Koreans. The North Korean army couldn't conquer the Purdue football dorm, much less the entire center of the country. How convincing a movie is that going to be? If they're going to do a comedy, they might as well go all the way and imagine the heartland being ransacked by Luxembourgian paratroopers. Or Belgian gnomes, who are a great example of how:

* Marketing sucks. Was anyone you know looking forward to a Smurfs movie? Even kids don't know about Belgium's most irritating export. Their NBC TV show went off the air in 1989. But the movie exists because of its cross-platform promotional potential: It has more than 200 (not a misprint) marketing partners. Sony also figured that parents of small children remember the TV series (we do: it sucked), so that meant "brand awareness" was high and did half the marketers' work for them. Brand awareness is key if you're going to burn $150 million on a movie. If they don't know the basic story going in, how are you going to explain it in a 30-second commercial? See also: adaptations of TV shows, remakes and "Sex and the City 2." There's even going to be a movie version of the game of Battleship. Having a toy tie-in didn't hurt "Transformers." But you saw "Transformers," so really the problem is:

* You suck. What Katzenberg wittily calls "that singular and unique characteristic that only exists in Hollywood, greed" is inseparable from taste: If the crowds demand cinematic Funyuns, someone is going to produce them, and get rich in the process. Audiences get stuck on "No Strings Attached," go with "Just Go With It" and sail away on "Stranger Tides" at "World's End." You want better movies? Be a better audience. The San Francisco-based critic David Thomson told me last year, "I think the most compelling figure in the movies at the moment is the audience. Because the audience are going crazy." I know what you're thinking: Yes, he does get to say "are" because he's English.

"Herbie Fully Loaded" may have been a film about (in the words of filmblather.com) "a stupid anthropomorphic VW Bug that winks, smiles, gets antenna boners when it sees a yellow, 'female' Bug and . . . occasionally exhibits psychotic behavior." But even after Disney hired every Hollywood writer above the level of the guy who writes the questions for Brooke Burke to ask the contestants on "Dancing with the Stars," it still only cost $50 million, according to Boxofficemojo.com. It provided lots of marketing opportunities -- and grossed $144 million in theaters alone. Even Disney was probably shocked. As Bill Goldman put it, "Nobody knows anything."

The audience loves broad jokes and cheap thrills, and will punish any movie that doesn't deliver them, one after another.


The problem is more specific than the estimable Mr. Smith makes it out to be. All of the suckitude converges on a single point: now that movies are made for a population of 7 billion they have to be broad and cheap. They also require leads who are no longer stars here, directors who don't do complex, money guys who don't have an interest in good movie-making, etc. Let's face it, you'd never be able to explain "It's a Wonderful Life" to three quarters of the potential audience for a modern film. That is, until we've turned all their cultures into Bedford Falls.


Posted by at July 31, 2011 1:28 PM
  

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