Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1168: 3 Short Subjects


Romantic comedies used to be the backbone of Hollywood. This was true from the Golden Age to until fairly recently, and now the genre seems fairly moribund, but a columnist at Variety thinks it deserves a comeback.

Romantic comedies do serve a purpose. They make good "date movies" that both men and women can enjoy, and are a lot cheaper to make than the big epic action movies that dominate the summer box office, and used to be really common.

So why are they so rare now?

Variety thinks a major factor is that those who were major rom-com stars in the genre's most recent peak of the 1990s and early 2000s are aging out of the ingenue ranks, but that doesn't explain everything. The genre is cyclical, and suicidal.

Now let's look at what the hell I'm talking about:

CYCLICAL: Rom-Coms come and go in relation to wider social trends. In the 1930s the Screwball Comedies ruled both as a relief from the grimness of the Great Depression and as a satire of the tumult in sexual mores that occurred in the 1920s.

Over the decades the genre changed into different styles to reflect changing tastes. It fell into a bit of a stupor in the 1960s and 1970s because one of the key ingredients to a rom-com, consequences to romantic/sexual decisions, fell out of favour. 

In the late 1980s society was hungover from the sexual revolution, and people started to take relationships seriously again. This saw a return of the romantic comedy with films like When Harry Met Sally, and it's brief silver age in the 1990s marked by the success of Four Weddings And A Funeral.

So why hasn't the genre just evolve instead of being in the rough shape it is in now?

But it did evolve, but not in a good way:

SUICIDAL: Since the genre was, by its nature, cheap, the studios and the people making them seemed to decide some time in the early 2000s that they didn't need to burn many calories making them. Characters became stock types, gimmicks became more outlandish and inane, and subplots became more about editing together shopping montages than about romance.

Men tuned out, moved on to the broad gross out comedies for their laughs, soon followed by women who also found the genre lacking the wit, the spark, and the heart that they had originally loved.

Can it be revived?

Hopefully. I like variety in entertainment, and the more genres out there that people can enjoy the better.


The other day I wrote about how any new Ghostbusters movie will only disappoint, and used Ghostbusters 2 as the prime example since it did so poorly in comparison to the first one.

That inspire reader Nate to comment:

Ah but the Ghostbusters did have a saturday morning cartoon show that ran for a few years. So there might be some question of why did 2 flop but the spin-off succeed? 
I think the biggest problem with 2 is that the story ended up being too much like 1, a rehash. Had they taken the story in actual new directions and allowed things to grow rather than just hit the reset button (like the relationships especially) things might have been different. 
Well that and not gone up against the juggernaut that was Batman.

Now that I had a moment to think about it, I think it went darker than a simple rehash because of one simple fact:


Remember Walter Peck the bureaucrat from the EPA who shut down their system, unleashing the ghosts and almost dooming the world?

Ghostbusters 1 ended with him being exposed for the know nothing power abusing popinjay he was and our heroes saving the world from Gozer.

Ghostbusters 2 opened with Peck having gotten everything he wanted. They're out of business, broke, and scattered to the four winds. They saved the world, but were unable to save themselves from bureaucracy and the legal system.

That's a dark place to start a comedy.

If they wanted to take the show in a new direction, they probably should have opened by revealing that since the defeat of Gozer supernatural activity plummeted to almost nothing, and what does happens seems harmless, if not downright tame. With no ghosts to bust they drifted apart, coasting on their brief fame, only to be thrust back together by a big, possibly ridiculous, world-threatening emergency.

Giving the win to Walter Peck was just a step too far.


In case you don't know Snowpiercer is a science fiction movie with an all-star and some kind of controversy over its release, but that's not what I'm going to talk about.

What I have is a question about the premise.

The premise has humanity all but wiped out by an ice-age. The last survivors are all crammed in a train, powered by a perpetual engine, that just goes in circles through the frozen wasteland, and class warfare breaks out between the poor, stuck in the back, and the "rich" in the front over control of the dwindling supplies.

Now here's my question.

They have a source of infinite electricity, and are surrounded by the ruins of the recently fallen civilization.

Why don't they just take the resources they waste keeping the train going around and around in circles, and use it to build a more permanent, well heated, home, that's capable of growing food?

An immobile home is easier to maintain than a massive moving vehicle, a lot less moving parts, and the ability to grow food would also solve a lot of their problems involving population, hunger, and cannibalism.

Why doesn't anyone do this?

In fact the whole premise seems based not on anyone looking for solutions to problems, just looking for ways to make them worse. 

None of the motivations that form the foundation of the premise make any sense unless the creators were looking for some sort of obvious metaphor about class war that critics would mistake for deep thought. However a metaphor that reflects so little about actual reality, economics, and human behaviour is not going to have that much of a lasting effect on the zeitgeist.


  1. Rainforest Giant9/8/14 2:24 pm

    The snow train thing is all about class warfare. So 19th Century Victorian era but since when did original ideas win anything in the movie biz?

  2. Rainforest Giant9/8/14 2:28 pm

    Romcoms do not have a chance. Men lose when they get married, women ride the 'carousel' until they are well past their 'best by' date and nobody under forty has anything like the kind of manners or morals that require somebody to understand a romcom.

    It's dead except as the occasional outlier and niche market.