Friday, 5 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #777: Answers 2: Electric Boogaloo

You asked more questions, so here I am with even more answers to all of life's mysteries....
Fuloydo asked... What effect, if any, do you feel that widespread ownership of large High Definition televisions with nice sound systems has on the movie industry?

For myself, I can say I go to maybe one movie per year. Maybe. I wait for the DVD release and drop $25 on the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and pop my own damned popcorn. If there is a release that I just can't wait to see I go to one of the really nice theaters that serve food and beer and don't allow children.
It's probably hurt the movie industry a lot. Why drive all the way to the theater, find parking, pay for parking, wait in line sometimes out in the weather, pay for your ticket, find a seat, and then have to put up with the glow from the iPhone screens of people tweeting about how they're in a theater tweeting about being in a theater.

Why put up with all that when you can wait a couple of months, get Netflix to send you the Blu-Ray, or get on streaming video, and watch it at home in your hi-def home theater? People have said to me that movie-going is a habit that can be broken. Going to the theater is inconvenient, watching a movie at home is the ultimate in convenience, especially when you can get big picture and big sound.

Which is a bit of a shame considering that the social experience of a bunch of people brought together by shared tastes in entertainment.
Robert the Wise asked... I wanted to ask you a question regarding an earlier post about the next Star Trek movie. The post seemed to revolve around the question of who the villain should be. I thought Star Trek was supposed to be science fiction. Isn't sci-fi supposed to be about new ideas and the effects of new technology and new races on human beings? Positive examples would be Blade Runner, 2001, the Quiet Earth, or Phase IV.

Making the movie a question of who Kirk will be punching out (followed by the inevitable climactic explosion) diminishes Trek from Sci-fi to mere space adventure....

(Question edited for length, though he does make good points.)
I think you may have answered your own question with your first paragraph. Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Quiet Earth and Phase IV were all challenging films full of neat science fiction ideas, but they also didn't make much money in comparison to space adventures like Star Wars, and most lost a lot of money when they were first released in theaters. Science fiction entails risk, space adventure is a lot more comforting to studio executives.

As for the original series, you could get away with not having a set villain when you're a weekly television series because the stakes a lot lower. The budgets are way smaller, the expectations for spectacle are lower, so it's okay to take a risk and center an episode around a moral dilemma instead of some sort of physical threat.

Then there's question of fan service. Fans would think it's cool to see a new version of a classic villain mixing it up with the new Kirk & Co., and are no doubt pumping out the fan-fic and slash fiction about it as we speak. Studio people look at this, and see something they cherish:
safety. If they give the fans what they think the fans want, then the risks they face spending $100-$200 million on making the film doesn't seem so bad.
ILDC asked... Your thoughts on likely BS early retirement plans? Particularly Kevin Smith's, who insists he wants to stop directing after eleven films and mostly be a full-time "talker". And he just turned 41. Possibly related is the fact that recently he doesn't seem to think he can ever have a mainstream hit.
It's a good way for 90s auteurs who aren't exactly burning up the charts critically or commercially to imply that they somehow still have "street cred" by being willing to "walk away from it all," but it's usually before it's taken away from them.
ILDC asked... Should an "artist" of some sort with a very particular style always try to do something really different, especially if their reputation and/or profits start sagging? Examples include Wes Anderson, Michael Cera, and Tim Burton.
Definitely. Writers should experiment with different genres and styles, and it's the same with directors, and actors. Because if you do things a certain way for too long, you get into a rut. Once in a while you must forget auteur theory and do something no one would expect from you. I think Tim Burton should do something along the lines of a gritty crime drama, no big FX, no swooping whimsical camera angles, no Johnny Depp, and no Helena Bonham Carter in a corset.

Wes Anderson should do something without his usual color palette, story matter, recurring themes and collaborators. And find a new font for his credits.

As for Michael Cera.... I don't know if he can do anything different than his usual twitchy nerd, because that's all I've seen him do.
ILDC asked... What exactly does a "major film studio" make? Just (usually) having a North American market share of over 10%?
Only their accountants no, and even they aren't sure anymore, thanks to their convoluted bookkeeping practices.
ILDC asked... Am I using too many run-on sentences?
Hell yes. Get thee to a Strunk & White and then slap yourself around the head with it.
Don H. asked-- So what is your take on Redford doing the hagiography on Ayers and Dorhn? (Question edited for length.)
For those who don't know Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dorhn are friends of President Obama, and former members of the Weather Underground. If you think that's the name of a band, you'd be wrong. The Weather Underground was a terrorist organization that set off bombs all over the country as part of their dream of overthrowing the US government and replacing it with a communist one.

Despite the explosions and the deaths most of the charges against Weather Underground members were ultimately dropped because of questions over the FBI's surveillance and investigation tactics, and most of them, like Ayers and Dohrn, entered academia. The possibility that they were mostly upper class white kids, and specifically in the case of Ayers, the child of a politically connected corporate CEO probably had nothing to do with their cases being dropped.

Anyway, that's their story in a nutshell, and Robert Redford is looking to make a movie about them and all the advance press is saying that it's going to present them as freedom loving kids fighting for peace, love, and understanding, yadda, yadda, yadda.... you can figure out the rest.

Now I can tell you why Redford is doing this.

It's because he's hearing something he's never heard before in his life.

The word "No."

No star in Hollywood history has had an existence as pampered as Redford. Success came to him early, it came to him very young, it came to him comparatively easy, and he managed to hold onto it for a long time past his relevancy's expiration date.

A story that illustrates this comes from Buck Henry. When they were putting together the film The Graduate, Redford wanted the lead role bad. Buck Henry was in a meeting and trying to explain how the character is feeling in a scene and said to Redford: "For this scene I need you to remember how you felt when your girlfriend dumped you."

Redford stared at Buck Henry like he had just started speaking Swahili backwards. Apparently he had no clue what it felt like to be dumped, because he had never been the dumped, only the dumper. Henry immediately moved on to find another actor and the rest is history. There are other stories. During the indie film boom of the 1990s Redford attempted to expand the Sundance brand and its indie street cred with all sorts of new ventures. Those ventures required investors, normally hard-nosed businessmen who were eager to cash in on the indie boom.

Outside of the Sundance Channel, most of them fizzled before they even started.


Redford time.

According to most sources if you're in a meeting with Redford, the meeting is to start not at the appointed time, but whenever Redford got around to feeling like getting around to thinking about attending. Those who had to deal with Redford on a regular basis call this phenomenon "Redford Time." When these investors, to whom time literally is money, walked out, Redford was genuinely puzzled. In Hollywood, where he was still a big fish in a small pond, everyone was eager to kiss his ass and call it ice cream no matter when he deemed it fit to show up.

Well, Redford time has started to catch up with him.

His last few films as both an actor and director came and went faster than you can say "Lindsay Lohan's career." His looks, which insulated him from reality for decades are fading, Sundance went from the place where Hollywood went for new ideas and filmmakers to where Hollywood went for a new photo-op in their best apres ski wear, and people are starting to say no to him.

He needs something to cement his place in Hollywood before the real world completely swallows up his career. So what does he do? Since his films have been failing lately he needs to find a way to make that failure work for him. He needs to make a guaranteed audience repellant that pushes the two big buttons that Hollywood loves: 60s nostalgia and leftist politics.

So when the film fails, he'll be patted on the back for his "courage" in wasting other people's money on making the movie, get some award nominations, and get a contract to make more movies.

At least that what he hopes happens.
Nate Winchester said... One more question: What's your bet on when Hollywood will get another shake up and go through another golden age? (since these things seem to go in cycles)
That's hard to say. The potential for one is their, but so are the pitfalls. The studios and their shrinking output in both quantity and quality are creating gaps in the market that can be exploited, there are new distributors starting to make headway, new media venues, and the technology to make professional quality films has never been more affordable.

The pitfall is when these new rebels get suckered into the Hollywood style of life and business. Then we'll see lots of these new distributors collapsing under their own bloat soon after tasting success, filmmakers falling into the trap of excess in both art and life. Then history repeats itself, only faster, messier, and more farcical.


Okay, time to relax from my pretense of wisdom and get some rest.


  1. "Only their accountants no"? Yes, I'm being a hypocrite.

  2. jepressman7/8/11 3:15 am

    Hollywood radicals are full of frijoles. A group of wannabe revolutionaries who collectively could not live in their Socialist workers paradise cause they would have to give up their personal assistents and a bevy of ,"yes people."So Redford wants street creed with the usual high-minded lefties in Hollywood,because a film like the one he wants to make will have a small general audience BUT WILL get attention from Hollywood types and the usual cinema pundits and they will call him an astute,ballsy film maker. What a lot of blather!

  3. What would be the best film to learn about lighting and cinematography?

    Don H.
    (P.S. the damn vampires are back, at least until the summers over)

  4. Do you have an opinion on casting "celebrities" in animated movies, even in non-cameo bit parts?

  5. Redford is doing a film on Obama's mentor Ayers as a desperate and futile attempt to bolster their messiah of change that the rest of the nation as already grown dissapointed and tired of.

    After the credit rating downgrade any 2012 reelection is pretty much finished.

    Hollywood types are like a socialist utopia where they do not have to pat for.