Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #315: More Miscellaneous Movie-Money Musings

Happy Canada to my Canadian readers, both of you.

Happy ordinary day to all the rest, and by that I mean both of you.

Today I'm sick, sneezing, wheezing, and geezing, but I still managed to spit out some of the money and movie related musings that you crave like the salivating dogs that you are.


While Paramount's
Transformers 2 raked in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box-office Adam Goodman, the studio's recently installed honcho decided to unceremoniously shit-can 31 people.

I'm not going to condemn Goodman for this action. He's relatively new at his post, most of the decisions that are starting to make Paramount a functioning commercial entity again, like
Star Trek & Transformers 2, were made before he got the top spot, and he has to make some sort of impression if he is going to justify his bonus.

And nothing justifies a bonus than layoffs, whether the company needs it or not. He can make a lot of noise about all the money they're going to save, create a 1 day, 0.02% uptick on the stock price, and establish an identity for himself as a decisive man of action.


Warner Bros. has decided not to renew their contract with actor, director, producer, activist, box-office sedative George Clooney, and Clooney and his Smokehouse Pictures production company has moved onto Sony Pictures.

Now I have to take a moment to wonder what glue they're huffing at Sony.

Clooney's good looking, charming, has won an Oscar, appears on a lot of magazine covers, and practically lives on the set of Entertainment Tonight, so you'd think that he'd be the biggest star in the world.

Not really.

If Clooney doesn't have a minimum of 10 other major actors with him, he couldn't sell tickets to the last lifeboat on the Titanic, and even then you can't really rely on it. Ocean's 13 made a little over $311,000,000 worldwide, but cost so much to make and promote, it probably only barely broke even.

Clooney's prime reason for existence is to make Hollywood feel good about itself. He's constantly praising Hollywood as a community for its charity, it's social activism, and how they're all better than the people who actually buy the tickets to movies. Hollywood then repays him in kind, praising him as the brightest star in the heavens, and praising his films as "intelligent" "mature" and to a certain extent above the heads of the average moviegoer.

Now the average moviegoer doesn't avoid his films because they're above their limited intellectual capacity, it's because Hollywood mistakes condescension for intelligence, and Clooney's non-Ocean's work are the definition of condescension.

His movies even follow a formula. He takes some play/article/book/life story about espionage/political/corporate intrigue, and a lot of self righteous posturing that tells the audience that they're evil for voting for someone, or buying a product he doesn't endorse, and then demands another Oscar.

So let's take a gander at the press release that announced the slate of films that Clooney's Smokehouse will be bringing to Sony, I'll put my personal notes in between:
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. An adaptation of Jonathan Mahler’s nonfiction book chronicling the historic Supreme Court case in which two lawyers sued the Bush administration on behalf of accused terrorist Salim Hamdan.
Hmmmm.... after all those anti-Iraq War movies vanished at the box-office, does Clooney honestly believe that American audiences will pay to see this film? No, not really, he just wants to have his Atticus Finch style Oscar clip, speaking "truth to power" against those who are out of power, and who probably wouldn't have done anything against him anyway.

At least with Aaron Sorkin on script duty there'll be plenty of people talking very quickly as they walk up and down hallways.
A satirical comedy about American spin doctors competing in the same Presidential election in Bolivia. Based on the documentary by Rachel Boynton, with a script by Peter Straughan (MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS).
Their brand is crisis, but their product is failure, because Americans don't exactly flock to satirical movies about elections, and especially Third World elections.
An adaptation of Beau Willimon’s critically acclaimed play, set during the Iowa primary of a presidential race.
Yet another election story. As if two years of pre-election speculations and postulations isn't enough, he really thinks American moviegoers will pay money for even more pre-election postulations.
The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. Chris Terrio is writing the screenplay.
He's probably going to cut out the fact that the Canadian Embassy made the whole thing possible because the CIA didn't even believe the Ayatollah Khomeinei would cause America any trouble until it was too late, and needed the Canucks to do all the work in the field.
A contemporary spy thriller about a spy who risks everything to reveal a conspiracy after he's accused of a murder he didn't commit. Based on the bestselling book by Olen Steinhauer. Tony Peckham is writing the screenplay.
It's like the Bourne movies, only with Clooney, and without the excitement.
Based on the bestselling nonfiction book by John Grisham, the true story of murder and injustice in a small town in Oklahoma. Adapted by David Gordon Green.
This film will be found guilty. Clooney trumps Grisham in the box-office game.

There was a time when such "serious" films could have connected with the audience, but that was a time when filmmakers actually made such films for a wide audience. Just look at the political films and thrillers of the 1970s, even when you didn't agree with the fundamental political stance of the filmmaker, they at least tried to make the film entertaining.

Nowadays "serious" films aren't about tackling controversial themes and subject matter in an entertaining way. They are all about Hollywood making itself feel morally and intellectually superior to the people who actually pay for their lavish, and often hypocritical lifestyles.


  1. Yet Michael Bay's Transformers with tons of explosions and a plot full of more holes than swiss cheese is able to connect with the audience.

  2. Sony has been sucking off the hollyweird yellow papers for decades now. So if those clowns crow about the clooney, he must be made of stardust and kiddy candy lollipops.

    Print his name at the top of a film whoring poster and expect the greens and multicolored printed cash to roll on in!... Is what they'll swallow.

    ...and feel the "morning after" in about a year later. I figure the clooney haggled out a multi-year (perhaps decade) contract to milk out as much as he can on a monthly bases.

  3. Gary-

    I've been thinking a lot into why many "mature" films don't do well while "dumb" films prosper, and it's a bit too long for a comment reply, and I'll probably make it a blog post on its own.

  4. I've been thinking a lot into why many "mature" films don't do well while "dumb" films prosper, and it's a bit too long for a comment reply, and I'll probably make it a blog post on its own.

    I'll take a short, un-thought-out, stab at it.

    "Mature" films require the audience to actually pay attention and give thought to what's going on. If that film is insulting that audience, or insulting something they happen to like, it's going to fail.

    "Dumb" films don't require the audience to think and can therefor get away with being somewhat insulting (as long as it's not blatent) since the audience is in the mode of "Hey, Look! An explosion!!!"

    My two cents, for what it's worth. Which probably isn't much.

  5. But Fuloydo, that doesn't explain why "smart" adult films used to do well, as recently as the 1970's. Compare the "smart" films of today with those of the 1960's - 1970's. Today's films just are not as good. Plus, a lot of so- called "smart" films aren't really smart - they are just anti-American, and that does not, by definition, make a film smart or good. A lot of Hollywood Oscar-bait is just as dumb and predictable as anything done by Michael Bay, but because it flatters Hollywood's self image, it's supposed to be "smart". It ain't necessarily so...