Monday, 19 August 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1059: Bombs, Brazilians, & Bad Ideas


Relativity Media's release Paranoia has officially tanked at the box office, sparking some firings and hirings in the marketing department, that some have compared to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic

Relativity's box office record is not very good for a wannabe studio. Per film domestic box-office revenues haven't cracked the $100 million mark yet, and while they may toot the horn of the film's raking in bigger money overseas, that's a bit of an illusion because Relativity doesn't have the international distribution ability of a major studio with branches in every country.

That means that they have to license their films out to other distributors, who need to take their cut out of rentals that, while different in almost every territory, are usually much smaller than the rentals they get in the domestic box office. That only counts if they get rentals at all since most indie producers will "pre-sell" their pictures for money up-front to make the movie.

No matter what, Relativity needs to make money at the domestic box office, or they won't make any money at all.

Maybe "mediocrity at best" is their business plan, but it doesn't strike me as much of one.


The Mayor of Rio De Janeiro is offering to have the city pay for 100% of the budget if Woody Allen shoots his next movie there.

Now targeting is probably a smart move on Rio's part since his films aren't known for their lavish budgets. However, I don't think cities, or governments, should be in the business of financing movies, something I've written about before.


Timur Bekmambetov needs a new agent.

After Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tanked at the box-office he's got two potential projects lined up, and both look like pretty bad ideas.

One is a horror film called Squirrels, about, naturally, squirrels, who become man-eating terrors.

The second is a remake of Ben-Hur, which I also think is a really bad idea.

Let's look at the facts.

The premise of Squirrels says that it's supposed to be some sort of  horror/comedy hybrid, something that isn't one of Timur's strength if you go by the reviews for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Then there's the alleged cause for the squirrels becoming homicidal flesh-feasting maniacs. Apparently an evil energy company is drilling for gas, and that's put the environment out of whack and the squirrels respond by developing a taste for human flesh.

That just reeks of filmmakers trying to be "relevant" and "important" and elevate their gory little fright film to the realm of Swiftian satire.

It never works.

When Hollywood attempts satire it the usual result is a ham-fisted failure that bores half the audience and annoys the other half.

Real satire requires a singular vision that isn't afraid to tackle their own shibboleths as well as those of their peers. Hollywood never does that. Hollywood's idea of satire is to look at what people outside of Hollywood do and then paint them as cartoonish freaks.

Hollywood is too isolated and too heavily invested in  the group-think of their own superiority to do it. 

Then there's Ben-Hur.

We all remember the big William Wyler version starring Charlton Heston, but even that was a remake of a silent film starring Ramon Navarro.

Both were monster hits, and the folks running MGM think history is due for a 3-peat.

I beg to differ.

The average American in flyover country doesn't trust mainstream Hollywood to handle religious themes, usually because the people making movies these days view religion as an evil oppressor, and religious people as a variety of mental defective.

So even if a Hollywood filmmaker does a religious themed film with all sincerity, the audience will probably steer clear expecting another hatchet job.

MGM should save their money and make a good idea for a change.


  1. re cartoonish freaks: I dunno, Hollywood has frequently painted its own as cartoonish freaks. Many of the self-referential and self-absorbed films about the movie business have done this. The best recent example that comes to mind is Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder (he was actually extremely funny in that role). There are others- whole films skewering the shallowness and stupidity of the industry (bowfinger, the player, etc.) But those mainly poke fun at the foibles and excesses of the cartoonish freaks that run the industry, not their politics or value systems. That's probably what you were referring to.

    re ben hur: it *could* work, in the right hands. remember what mel gibson did with "passion of the christ"- created a film that took the religious theme with the utmost sincerity, marketed it on the DL (heh) to the christian communities in the US, and made a monster hit pretty much on his own terms, outside the regular system. whatever you think about mel, or the film itself, that was quite an achievement. bekmambetov is known for his post-apocalyptic monster type movies, so the style is exactly wrong. so yes, done that way, it would be a total bomb. much as i am expecting aronofsky's "noah" to be a bomb, for the same reasons- wrong sensibility for a biblical movie. i am expecting that to look and feel more like "evan almighty" (russell crowe? really?) than any of the 50s biblical epics.

  2. When Hollywood gives itself the "cartoonish freak" treatment there is usually an element of truth behind them. They act extremely but with motivations that are understandable within their world.

    When they try to satirize people from outside their world, the grain of truth is lacking because they don't know life outside of their world, and it shows.