Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Movies Suck

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, that suggests that 2010 is the worst year in movies ever. Ever. In that article, the author touches on one of the reasons movies have been so bad as of late. Everything that has been done is being done, and done again, and basically done to death.

Case in point, for 2010, we've had, or will have before the year is over, remakes: Clash of the Titans, The Karate Kid, Nightmare on Elm Street, Death at a Funeral. We've had sequels: Sex and the City, Toy Story, Shrek, Predators, Iron Man, Step Up, Cats and Dogs, Paranormal Activity, Why Did I Get Married?, Wall Street, Tron. And, to be honest, we've had a lot of crap and abysmal flops: Dinner for Schmucks, Knight and Day, Shutter Island, Grown-Ups, The Bounty Hunter, Hot Tub Time Machine, Killers, Cop Out, Macgruber, shall I go on?

If the question is, "Why do so many of these movies stink?" I might have an answer.

I have a friend out in Los Angeles, who is an amazing writer. I actually have a few friends that are amazing writers. When I say amazing, I mean that they not only write well, but they also have great, original ideas. Ideas, I think, a lot of people would pay to see in a theatre.

Anyway, this friend is so good that he’s had several meetings with Hollywood producers. They love his writing. They love his original ideas. They want him to write … remakes. His original work got him through the door but that isn't what they are interested in. They want remakes (Nightmare on Elm Street), movie adaptations of successful books (Twilight, Eat, Pray Love) or graphic novels (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), movie versions of old TV shows (The A-Team) or even adaptations of popular video games (Resident Evil).

Basically, they are reluctant to take a chance on an original idea because they would have to actually do some work marketing it and they don't trust us, the audience, to respond to something original.

They expect us to say, "Hey, I liked The A-Team back in the day, sure I'll see it even if Mr. T isn't in it." Or, maybe, "I loved that book/graphic novel/video game and can't wait to see the film!" Sometimes in the case of Twilight, it works. Other times, (A-Team, Macgruber, ...) it doesn't work at all.

If any original works do make it to the screen, it's because they have, what Hollywood Insiders call 'a package.' They have a big name actor/director attached. My friend could have never pitched Inception but a director like Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Memento) can get it done. On the flip side, Shutter Island made it to the screen on the strength of the Leonardo DiCaprio/Martin Scorsese package (and that was over two hours of my life I can never get back).

Otherwise, successful, original films often start out as small, independents aimed at a niche audience that find a bigger audience (The Kids are Alright).

When movies come out that are a little different or are the kinds of movies you want to see, you have to support them, and no, I don't mean by buying the bootleg!

African-Americans had been clamoring for a good family drama when Akeelah and the Bee came out several years ago. It was well-written, well-acted, even well-marketed. It didn't crack the top five the weekend it debuted.

A friend of mine had a meeting the Monday following Akeelah's disastrous opening weekend to discuss her family-friendly black drama. Monday morning, she got a call. Her meeting had been canceled. The executive felt Akeelah's 'failure' showed there was 'no market' for her kind of film.

I wish I could say that things will get better, but I doubt it. The Powers That Be don't have the nerve or the creativity to really make films. I predict more of the same. More remakes. More formulaic comedies. And, more mindless, mediocre movies masquerading behind 3-D effects.

So sad, but probably so true...

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