Thursday, 12 July 2012

You Got Questions, I Can Pretend To Have Answers!

I put out a call for questions, and I got some real doozies. So I'm going to answer some today, but don't stop asking, I can dispense my smug know-it-allness all freaking week. Just leave them in the comments.

Let's begin with a three-rounder from reader Rainforest Giant:
First, what is the technical name for a cartoon's sound effects guy? Is it the same as Foley(sp?) guy? 
 I can't find anything that says that animation has different titles for their sound effects people than live action sound effects people. There are sound designers, sound editors, Foley artists, and technicians.
Second, can anyone make a Barsoom movie or does uncle Walt own the brand now? 
The source novel A Princess of Mars is in the public domain, and not only can anyone make their own Barsoom movie, anyone already has, as seen in the low budget adaptation put out by the Asylum in 2009 even though the Disney version was already in pre-production. 
However, if you make a movie that looks exactly like the Disney version, using the designs they created for the film, they will probably come down on you like the wrath of an angry god with their registered trademarks. Basically your aliens better look pretty different from Disney's aliens.

Then there's the "We took a $200 million bath on John Carter" element, which may reduce Disney's desire to care about the franchise.

Which is good news for my film about John Carter's drinking problem: The Face On The Barsoom Floor, because it won't look like anything Disney did.
Third, why does Cruise stick with Scientology? Hubbard bet Clarke he could invent a religion. Clarke say's, 'I lost.' So who could take it seriously?
I can't explain why Tom Cruise does anything. He's heavily invested in it emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually in the religion, and breaking away is not only hard, but terrifying. So he might not want to take that step into the unknown.

As for who can take it seriously, well, reports say that it's not recruiting new adherents in the numbers they need to maintain the church's overhead. Recent high level defections, and incidents where the church has been actively mocked, like in a now legendary episode of South Park, has also damaged its ability to maintain membership.

Another thing that may have hurt Scientology is its dependence on celebrities to be the public face of the church. Sure, people might buy clothes or cars endorsed by celebrities, but when it comes to issues of spiritual/mental health nobody accepts them as serious role models.

But that's a little out of my jurisdiction, so to speak, and better asked of serious investigative journalists.

Next question!

Rick Mcginnis said...

Why haven't I seen a really good new film in months?

No, I'm serious. I returned to movie reviewing three years ago and after an initial burst of enthusiasm, I'm played out. I've come to dread entering a theatre or cracking open a disc that isn't a Blu-ray reissue of some Hollywood classic whose basic craftsmanship is fairly guaranteed (as long as it wasn't made after 1962.) I've been underwhelmed or outright disappointed in a half dozen new films I was anticipating eagerly for years. The thought of watching a new film - ANY new film - has become as acutely painful as it once was to sit down at a screening of a Canadian film in the waning days of Telefilm's last production bonanza.

Really, this is having an impact on my life, and my livelihood. Any thoughts?
So you're reporting some serious cinematic ennui.


I think your slump is in direct relation to the creative and audience related slump Hollywood is currently going through. It's a case of history repeating itself, but I think the solution that saved Hollywood in the past is not coming this time around.

As your question noted Hollywood in the 1960s entered a period of decline. Classics and hits were still being made, but the classics were fewer, as were the hits, and few of those hits went on to become classics.

This was mostly because Hollywood was essentially a closed shop that had last seen a sizable infusion of fresh blood with the coming of sound.

These creative doldrums led to slumps in ticket sales, and many of the big studios came very close to bankruptcy.

Many of the studios were taken over by big holding companies, Warner Bros was taken over by Kinney, and Paramount became part of Gulf+Western, and these new owners needed to get these companies to stop hemorrhaging money.

The band aid they needed was brought to them by Roger Corman. The indie director had nurtured an entire generation of young filmmakers who were a lot closer to the pop culture zeitgeist than the old farts running the old studios. Plus, the films they made were cheap and much more profitable.

So in the early 70s you saw a revival of Hollywood's creativity, and with it, a revival of its commercial fortunes, and it was carried by it for decades. These fortunes declined until we hit the seemingly endless cycle of remakes, reboots, rehashes and rip-offs we see today.

Not only are we trapped in this cycle, the indie-to-studio transfusion that revived Hollywood in the late 60s to early 70s WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

The indie boom of the 1990s transformed the very nature of independent film. Before then independent films were seen as being separate, occasionally even antithetical, from the prevalent shibboleths, attitudes, and prejudices of the Hollywood establishment.

When they started winning Oscars the Hollywood establishment immediately assimilated indie film and transformed it predominantly into an extension of the shibboleths, attitudes, and prejudices of the Hollywood establishment. Indie film, or at least the indie film that gets any serious attention, is where Hollywood goes to give itself street cred.

Also there's no immediate threat of bankruptcy hanging over them from this creative slump and declining audiences because:

A) The studios are relatively small cogs in massive, multinational, multimedia corporate conglomerates. This gives them a massive cushion from the consequences of their actions.

B) They can point to the occasional mega-blockbuster and say "See, things are doing great!" conveniently forgetting the hundreds of millions pissed away on the fact that they dropped more bombs that year than Curtis LeMay.

Without the fear of immediate bankruptcy the studios can't see what they're doing wrong. There's no way for an outsider to get them to listen to anything truly new or original that might shake up the way things are working. You are either assimilated into becoming one of their Borg like drones, or you're just left out.

But all is not lost.  Pop culture is not a complete wasteland.

Television's in the middle of a new golden age when it comes to the quality of storytelling. New media is rising on the internet with the sort of material that mainstream Hollywood wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

Will any of this new creative spirit come to the big screen and help shake off your ennui?

I can't really say, but probably not.


1 comment:

  1. Rainforest Giant

    Ok, since the mouse doesn't have a lock on Barsoom Floor, what other stories are out there in public domain that are begging to get made into movies?

    What is the difference between a script and a screenplay?

    More importantly, how can I make it big or simply get paid to write one?