TopBilled

Why do some classic movie fans bash newer films?

342 posts in this topic

Not to derail the thread, but re: the cinematography for A SIMPLE PLAN and CAFE SOCIETY...

Look at this shot from an outdoor scene n CAFE SOCIETY. Notice how extremely bright the background is, so that it pulls our eyes to the light bouncing off the shrubs/trees. Also the light bouncing off the ear piece of the phone receiver is very noticeable. Way too over-lit. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 11.37.28 AM.png

In A SIMPLE PLAN we have the opposite effect. The light casts shadows in an outdoor scene:

Screen shot 2017-06-06 at 1.47.56 PM.png

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19 hours ago, DougieB said:

I think you're right that we respond best to what seems familiar and plausible to us, and which reaffirms in some way our own view of the world.

I hear this opinion quite often, but every time I do it gives me pause... It seems a lot of people gravitate toward movies that they can relate to in some way or another, and while that's all perfectly pleasant, it has never been my primary draw, (I don't think.) After growing up on modern movies I sorta gave up watching them altogether, until seeing some early German silents on TCM which were jarring enough to renew my interest in film. Ever since it has been the search for that shock factor, (the shock of the strange and unexpected, not of anything indecent,) that has kept me coming back.

One of the things that turned me away from film in the first place was the way that modern movies were trying to reflect my modern life. I resented the pigeonholing and was bored by the attempt at realism. Older films were like nothing I had seen before and that's what I wanted to see.

So in a way that puts me on the "escape" side of movie viewership... but "escaping" is more often associated with the search for an ideal, and the films that interest me most are often a lot uglier and more exploitative than that. So.... that means.... I'm bored? Is that it...? My point is, why do people necessarily have to be either "relating" to something or "escaping" from something. Why so personal?

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20 hours ago, DougieB said:

I only see a couple of films a year in theaters, both because the wait time to see a movie on cable has shrunk and because there frankly isn't a lot that appeals to me enough to pay the money and make the trip.

My sentiments exactly.

20 hours ago, DougieB said:

But all the urgent energy they put into battling preposterously inflated and imaginary menaces just makes me sad, seeing the grudging attention some members of the audiences for those films give to real-life problems like climate change

Boy, do I like that statement. Even Godzilla was a result of wanton atomic testing, wasn't he? There were ALWAYS subversive warnings in those 50's monster/sci fi movies about what we were doing to each other & our planet. The only caution about pitting superheroes against any very real issues, is audiences may actually passively WAIT for someone to save "us". 😧

As for the definition of "classic", it never changes: A classic is something that the majority of people agree they enjoy & like. This art -whether it be music, painting, sculpture, movie, etc- is universally liked despite geography or culture and holds up over time. People in Russia and Brazil like the Beatles, right?

There will always be the person who doesn't like Mozart or Fantasia for example, but most people despite their culture will agree this is art that elevates people. If something is only liked for a limited time, like the song "Macarena" it is not a classic.

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14 hours ago, Fedya said:

One thing I don't think I saw mentioned in this thread is how many of the blockbuster movies of today look like the color palette is teal and orange, and that's about it.  (At least, from the ads/trailers.)  Something about it looks to me bland, cookie-cutter, and terrible.

Interesting.  I have a similar take on it....

I look at what I see( and mostly from "trailers") about many modern movies as a set of "colorforms".  Remember that toy?  You had a slick, black laminated kind of board, and a sheet of a limited amount of different "designs" made of some kind of flimsy, vinyl type cut-outs that you could only stick on that board in different positions, but still all the same old "cut-outs".  Not much variety or newness in content, just arranged in slightly different order to give the illusion of being "new".

And we've had this discussion about the word "classic" and it's various definitions several times in these forums.  And never a definitive consensus .

Sepiatone

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On 4/3/2019 at 2:08 PM, TopBilled said:

I've been meaning to ask this for awhile. Why do some people disparage newer films? It's like saying an old train is better than a new train.

 

screen-shot-2019-04-03-at-11.00.05-am.jp

 

Or a worn out pair of shoes has more value than a pair of new sneakers.

screen-shot-2019-04-03-at-11.00.33-am.pn

Certainly some classic films were released in 2018 and some might already have been released this year. Classic does not mean the film has to be made in 1940-whenever. So why is there a bias against the new?

screen-shot-2019-04-03-at-11.01.34-am.pn

They are sad, lonely people?

They are malcontents?

They are Luddites?

Choose any of the above...

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Not at all. Cavegirl, I'm surprised at you. For shame!

As I implied earlier, listing reasons 'why new things usually suck' would probably be a limitless endeavor.

Trying to find one lone 'aphorism' or 'epigram' which sums it all  up --that's the other approach. Is there some principle we can refer to, like the 'golden mean' or golden ratio', which succinctly and pithily describes the vast juncture between old and new? Take a glance at the 'law of diminishing returns on investment' (if anyone here is the science-minded sort, I know they always need something sciencey-sounding, but in this case its valid).

I guess you could basically say that its a case of 'doers doing', and 'talkers talking'. That's my umbrella statement. Those who 'can' ...'do'. Those who can't ...'teach'. The 'thin end' of the wedge versus the 'thick end' of the wedge. There are no 'renaissance men' in modern times.

H'mmm. How else to phrase what I mean, here? Well, let me ask you, does anyone abide a 'talker', rather than a 'doer'? Who is impressed by 'pretenders'? After a certain point, all Hollywood consists of, are these types. Copycats and followers. Thieves and borrowers. All 'fluff', no 'stuff'. Loafers, spongers, layabouts and ne'er-do-wells. Riding on coattails.

No pioneers. No one today is accomplishing anything lasting. No one today is achieving anything significant, forging any genuine qualitative improvements.

It's like someone once said about baseball: "it's dead, but they just haven't kicked the body into a grave yet".

The movie-making industry at this stage of its lifespan, is depleted of direction and energy, it has succumbed to ennui, stagnation, heat-death; (the Entropy Effect). Its full of paper-tigers, puffed-up egos, and jesters wearing the Emperor's clothes. No-talents and hacks, always talking a lot of s**t, yeah ...but they ain't doing s**t. There's nothing for them to do. They get the computers do it all for 'em instead.

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I guess you could basically say that its a case of 'doers doing', and 'talkers talking'. That's my umbrella statement. Those who 'can' ...'do'. Those who can't ...'teach'. The 'thin end' of the wedge versus the 'thick end' of the wedge. There are no 'renaissance men' in modern times.

H'mmm. How else to phrase what I mean, here? Well, let me ask you, does anyone abide a 'talker', rather than a 'doer'? Who is impressed by 'pretenders'? After a certain point, all Hollywood consists of, are these types. Copycats and followers. Thieves and borrowers. All 'fluff', no 'stuff'. Loafers, spongers, layabouts and ne'er-do-wells. Riding on coattails.

We discussed some of this yesterday in another thread. I think you're making sweeping generalizations.

Not everyone is stealing. They are really taking ideas that are commonly shared and refining them. As a community of entertainers, they are working together to offer product that is in demand. 

A producer or a director in this climate doesn't need to be an independent maverick, the first one with a new idea. 

The same goes for the studios. Today we have studios that work together and pool resources, co-producing big budget films, often with foreign investors added into the mix. We do not need to see one mogul at the top, being this sort of revolutionary "god" (or "goddess") putting everyone else to shame. The industry doesn't operate that way, and it doesn't need to. That's counterproductive.

Film is a highly collaborate art form. It's also a very commercial art form. So it requires a community of people working in tandem with each other, not competing to be first or the most important. That sort of ego gives way to ongoing employment and collaboration that is much more profitable in the long run.

Anyway, I don't want to keep rehashing this. But I do want to say that making broad generalizations about the lack of creativity in Hollywood, without looking at how deals and creative partnerships actually occur, comes across as folly. It's never benefited anyone to look at the past through rose-colored glasses and insist the present should be the same. A lot of those earlier models of production are outmoded and there's a reason they were replaced by current business approaches in Hollywood.

None of this is related to the topic of this thread, unless we are bashing newer films because they are made by people who don't make films the old-fashioned way!

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H'mmm. Eh well. I have probably two or three dozen related articles I could post links to, I don't think in the end it would change anyone's mind. That's not my agenda anyway.

That being said, here's just one that sums up a lot of points in readable fashion.

https://tinyurl.com/y5fgqe23

p.s. I mentioned somewhere else on this site, how PC- obsessed moviegoers I've met love to turn their backs on the legacy of classic Hollywood simply because the classic era was not a perfect one for women or minorities, 'therefore nothing made in that era can be good because see, it just wasn't perfectly free from bias and misogyny the way WE live today'. Hogwash, of course, and no one espousing these views stands a hope-in-hell of convincing me that today's movie products are intrinsically any 'better' simply because they're whitewashed and sanitized. The whole 'diversity in media' thing is driven by money, and money only.

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Can't resist. One more piece for today--because its so rare --Mark Kermode's famous rant against blockbusters. It's published in his book, 'The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex' but was excerpted on news sites around the web. Then, powers-that-be must have gotten irked and had it yanked. Anyway here it is, in full. You cant find it anymore.

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Every time I complain that a blockbuster movie is directorially dumb, or insultingly scripted, or crappily acted, or artistically barren, I get a torrent of emails from alleged mainstream-movie lovers complaining that I (as a snotty critic) am applying highbrow criteria that cannot and should not be applied to good old undemanding blockbuster entertainment. I am not alone in this; every critic worth their salt has been lectured about their distance from the demands of "popular cinema", or has been told that their views are somehow elitist and out of touch (and if you haven't been told this then you are not a critic, you are a "showbiz correspondent"). This has become the shrieking refrain of 21st-century film (anti)culture – the idea that critics are just too clever for their own good, have seen too many movies to know what the average punter wants, and are therefore sorely unqualified to pass judgment on the popcorn fodder that "real" cinema-goers demand from the movies.

This is baloney – and worse, it is pernicious baloney peddled by people who are only interested in money and don't give a damn about cinema. The problem with movies today is not that "real" cinema-goers love garbage while critics only like poncy foreign language arthouse fare. The problem is that we've all learned to tolerate a level of overpaid, institutionalised corporate dreadfulness that no one actually likes but everyone meekly accepts because we've all been told that blockbuster movies have to be stupid to survive. Being intelligent will cause them to become unpopular. Duh! The more money you spend, the dumb and dumberer you have to be. You know the drill: "no one went broke underestimating the public intelligence". That's just how it is, OK?

Well, actually, no. You want proof? OK. Exhibit A: Inception.

Inception is an artistically ambitious and intellectually challenging thriller from writer/director Christopher Nolan, who made his name with the temporally dislocated low- budget "arthouse" puzzler Memento. Nolan unfashionably imagines that his audience are sentient beings, and treats them as such regardless of budget. Memento cost $5m, had no stars or special effects, aimed high nonetheless, expected its audience to keep up, and reaped over $25m in the US alone. Inception cost $160m, had huge stars and blinding special effects, aimed high nonetheless, expected its audience to keep up, and took around $800m worldwide. See a connection here?

Nolan earned the right to make a movie as intelligent and expensive as Inception by grossing Warner Bros close to $1.5bn with 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight'. I remember burbling to Radio-5-Live listeners that 'Batman Begins' was "far smarter than any of us had the right to expect from a movie which cost that much". But why shouldn't it be smart? Why shouldn't we expect movies that "cost that much" to be worth it?

Because we have been told for too long that popular movies must, by their very nature, be 'terrible', and we've all learned to accept this horrendous untruth.

As for Inception, the idea that a "mainstream" audience could embrace a movie that includes the lines "Sorry, whose dream are we in?" and "He's militarised his subconscious!" would seem anathema to the studio heads (and their mealy- mouthed media minions), who have been telling us for decades that dumb is beautiful. Yet Nolan has become one of the most financially reliable directors working in Hollywood without ever checking his intellect in at the door. Did no one explain the rules to him? Did he miss a meeting?

Don't get me wrong; Inception isn't perfect, nor is it "stunningly original", as some would have you believe. The plot, which revolves around explosive industrial espionage played out within the interlocking layers of an unsuspecting psyche, is essentially Dreamscape with A-levels and draws upon a number of populist sources, ranging from Wes Craven's horror sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors to Alejandro Amenábar's Spanish oddity Open Your Eyes (later remade in Hollywood as the inferior Tom Cruise vehicle Vanilla Sky). It is also, in essence, an existential Bond movie: On Her Majesty's Psychiatric Service. But like great pop music, groundbreaking cinema rarely arrives ex nihilo, and the fact that Nolan seems to have watched (and loved) a lot of genre trash in his time merely increases his significant stature in my eyes.

Too many blockbuster movies nowadays seem to be made by people who hate cinema, who have seen too few movies, and who have nothing but contempt for the audiences who pay their grotesquely over-inflated salaries. So, did Inception become a money-spinning hit because it boasts a really smart script?

I'd like to think so, but honestly, no.

Would it have taken less money if it had been less intelligent?

Maybe. Probably not. Who knows?

Would it have taken more money if it been less intelligent?

Maybe. Probably not. Who knows?

Would it have made anything like that amount of money if it didn't include:

a) an A-list star

b) eye-popping special effects

c) a newsworthy budget?

Definitely not.

So what does the success – both financial and artistic – of Inception prove? Simply this: that if you spend enough money, bag an A-list star and pile on the spectacle, the chances are your movie will not lose money, regardless of how smart or dumb it may be. Trying to be funny may be a massive risk (fail and your movie goes down) but trying to be clever never hurt anyone. Clearly, the exact amount of money a movie will ultimately make will be affected to some degree by whether or not anyone actually likes it; Titanic couldn't have become a record-breaking profit-maker if some people hadn't wanted to see it twice, and whatever my own personal problems with the film I concede that loads of people really do love it to pieces. But the fact remains that, if you obey the three rules of blockbuster entertainment, an intelligent script will not (as is widely claimed) make your movie tank or alienate your core audience. Even if they don't understand the film, they'll show up and pay to see it anyway – in just the same way they'll flock to see films that are rubbish, and which they don't actually enjoy. Like Pearl Harbor .

This may sound like a terribly depressing scenario – that multiplex audiences will stump up for "event movies" regardless of their quality. But look at it this way: if the audiences will show up whether a movie is good or bad, then does the opportunity not exist to make something genuinely adventurous with little or no risk? If the studio's money is safe regardless of what they do, artistically speaking, why not do something of which they can be proud? If you're working in a marketplace in which the right kind of gargantuan expense all but guarantees equivalent returns, where's the downside in pushing the artistic envelope? Why dumb down when the dollar is going up?

Why be Michael Bay when you could be Christopher Nolan? In fact, despite the asinine whining of those cultural collaborators who have invested their fortunes in the presumption of the stupidity of others, the blockbuster market arguably offers a level of artistic freedom that no other sector of film financing enjoys. The idea that creative risk must be limited to low or mid-priced movie-making (where you can in fact lose loads of money) while thick-headed reductionism rules the big-budget roost is in fact the very opposite of the truth.

As David Puttnam has been saying for years, the biggest risk in Hollywood at the moment is making a mid-priced, artistically adventurous movie which has a great script but no stars or special effects, ie the kind of film that studios now view as potential financial Kryptonite. It is this area in which producers can most legitimately be forgiven for following a policy of cultural risk avoidance, because it is here that monetary shirts may still be lost. Remember – The Shawshank Redemption, a prison drama with no marquee-name stars or special effects, actually lost money in cinemas (it cost $35m, of which it recouped only $18m in its initial release period) before it went on to become one of the most popular movies of all time on home video. If it had cost $200m, starred Tom Cruise and featured a couple of explosive break-out sequences, it would have broken even in the first few weeks – guaranteed.

For further proof of money's ability to make more money, look at the list of the most expensive movies of the past 20 years and see how infrequently they have failed to turn a profit, regardless of quality. Sam Raimi's baggily substandard Spider-Man 3, which even the fans agree was a calamitous mess (unlike the first two instalments) cost $258m and grossed $885m worldwide. X-Men: The Last Stand, which tested the patience of devotees of both the comic books and the movies, ran up a bill of $210m but still raked in $455m worldwide. James Cameron's Avatar (aka Smurfahontas, or Dances with Smurfs) cost $237m and (if we include the unnecessarily extended "Special Edition' re-release) has achieved global box-office takings just shy of $2.8bn.

Even David Fincher's utterly up-itself The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an upmarket indulgence in which Brad Pitt plays a man who lives his life backwards, managed to balance its $150m costs with worldwide box-office takings in the region of $329m, thanks in part to well-placed news stories about its ultra-expensive special effects. If you take the oft-repeated industry maxim that a film must gross twice its negative cost (the price of actually making the film before incurring print, publicity and distribution costs) in order to earn its keep, then all of these movies were bona fide hits. Working on the same ratio, Bryan Singer's dangerously star-free 2006 superhero flick Superman Returns, featuring Brandon "who he?' Routh, "underperformed' at the box office, with takings of $390m just failing to balance its official cost of $209m (as opposed to the $270m some reported) although ancillary revenues would certainly have pushed it into profit.

Compare that with Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, which I really liked (although crucially my kids didn't) but which only a fool would have financed to the tune of $100m, since it contained no stars (Catherine Keener is an indie queen, James Gandolfini a safe bet only on TV) and boasted deliberately unspectacular (but nonetheless costly) special effects.

Like Heaven's Gate, Where the Wild Things Are was a movie whose budget was totally out of whack with the financial realities of what was on-screen, and it has been widely described as a chastening flop. Jonze's folly still took around $100m in theatres worldwide and has since recouped more on DVD and TV, meaning that the level of its "failure' is far from studio-sinkingly spectacular. Once upon a time, a film like Where the Wild Things Are would have ended Spike Jonze's career and sent industry bosses tumbling from high windows. Today, it is merely a curio from which everyone will walk away unscathed.

This is the not-so-harsh reality of the movie business for top-end productions in the 21st century. For all the bleating and moaning and carping and whingeing that we constantly hear about studios struggling to make ends meet in the multimedia age, those with the means to splash money around will always come out on top. So the next time you pay good money to watch a really lousy summer blockbuster, remember this: the people who made that movie are wallowing in an endless ocean of cash, which isn't going to dry up any time soon. They are floating on the financial equivalent of the Dead Sea , an expanse of water so full of rotting bodies turned to salt that it is literally impossible for them to sink. They could make better movies if they wanted, and the opulent ripples of buoyant hard currency would still continue to lap at their fattening suntanned bodies. If they fail to entertain, engage and amaze you, then it is because they can't be bothered to do better. And if you accept that, then you are every bit as stupid as they think you are.

This is no time to be nice to big-budget movies. This is the time for them to start paying their way, both financially and artistically.

 

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6 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Not at all. Cavegirl, I'm surprised at you. For shame!

As I implied earlier, listing reasons 'why new things usually suck' would probably be a limitless endeavor.

Trying to find one lone 'aphorism' or 'epigram' which sums it all  up --that's the other approach. Is there some principle we can refer to, like the 'golden mean' or golden ratio', which succinctly and pithily describes the vast juncture between old and new? Take a glance at the 'law of diminishing returns on investment' (if anyone here is the science-minded sort, I know they always need something sciencey-sounding, but in this case its valid).

I guess you could basically say that its a case of 'doers doing', and 'talkers talking'. That's my umbrella statement. Those who 'can' ...'do'. Those who can't ...'teach'. The 'thin end' of the wedge versus the 'thick end' of the wedge. There are no 'renaissance men' in modern times.

H'mmm. How else to phrase what I mean, here? Well, let me ask you, does anyone abide a 'talker', rather than a 'doer'? Who is impressed by 'pretenders'? After a certain point, all Hollywood consists of, are these types. Copycats and followers. Thieves and borrowers. All 'fluff', no 'stuff'. Loafers, spongers, layabouts and ne'er-do-wells. Riding on coattails.

No pioneers. No one today is accomplishing anything lasting. No one today is achieving anything significant, forging any genuine qualitative improvements.

It's like someone once said about baseball: "it's dead, but they just haven't kicked the body into a grave yet".

The movie-making industry at this stage of its lifespan, is depleted of direction and energy, it has succumbed to ennui, stagnation, heat-death; (the Entropy Effect). Its full of paper-tigers, puffed-up egos, and jesters wearing the Emperor's clothes. No-talents and hacks, always talking a lot of s**t, yeah ...but they ain't doing s**t. There's nothing for them to do. They get the computers do it all for 'em instead.

Well, goldang and tarnation...I'm surprised at me too, Sarge!

For eons I would say and think exactly what you are saying and thinking, that the times may have changed but things haven't improved, and I had my guidepost of not even wanting to watch any movies made after 1960. But then I guess, I got worn down by people calling me an annoying curmudgeon, and holding to snobbery standards, just because I thought the current movies stunk and so did the cinematography, which doesn't even deserve such a high faluting term. And now, I finally got tired and joined the masses and you give me hope that there are others with such strict standards, and I am not alone finally.
 

Thank you for giving me the will to live again!

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3 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Can't resist. One more piece for today--because its so rare --Mark Kermode's famous rant against blockbusters. It's published in his book, 'The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex' but was excerpted on news sites around the web. Then, powers-that-be must have gotten irked and had it yanked. Anyway here it is, in full. You cant find it anymore.

-------------------------------------------------------

I am not alone in this; every critic worth their salt has been lectured about their distance from the demands of "popular cinema", or has been told that their views are somehow elitist and out of touch (and if you haven't been told this then you are not a critic, you are a "showbiz correspondent"). This has become the shrieking refrain of 21st-century film (anti)culture – the idea that critics are just too clever for their own good, have seen too many movies to know what the average punter wants, and are therefore sorely unqualified to pass judgment on the popcorn fodder that "real" cinema-goers demand from the movies.

Actually, the whole "Down with RottenTomatoes" and "Critics are out of touch!"--synchronizing suspiciously with the same Summer of '16 that gave us the Trump-supporter rallies--were from the angry, eternally disgruntled DC Comics fans setting out to "prove" that "their time" had finally come, against "those stuck-up Marvel fans!", and their "tongue-in-cheek feel-good superhero movies for lil' PG-13 babies who can't take it R-rated and dark!", if only Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice would become the runaway box-office blockbuster of the year.  (It had to!--It must!  Otherwise, they'd never get those Justice League and Wonder Woman movies!  Bite the bullet and take one for the team!) And when it didn't...and kept on not becoming it...the more the fans tried to find unity in being "persecuted".  

And, taking a note from certain other "persecuted" fans with an over-personalized issue, how do you find unity?  By saying that the world is Against You...You just can't trust that FAKE PRESS!!

After there was a (ahem) general consensus among the rest of the public that BvS's problems were thoroughly their own, the diehard DC Comics fans--like moving from the Wall to the Supreme Court--tried to rally their new issue around whether, okay, maybe Suicide Squad, and its different tone, would be Warner/DC's big moment.  And when it wasn't either...that PROVED RottenTomatoes was Out to Get Them!  

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2 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Can't resist. One more piece for today--because its so rare --Mark Kermode's famous rant against blockbusters. It's published in his book, 'The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex' but was excerpted on news sites around the web. Then, powers-that-be must have gotten irked and had it yanked. Anyway here it is, in full. You cant find it anymore.

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Every time I complain that a blockbuster movie is directorially dumb, or insultingly scripted, or crappily acted, or artistically barren, I get a torrent of emails from alleged mainstream-movie lovers complaining that I (as a snotty critic) am applying highbrow criteria that cannot and should not be applied to good old undemanding blockbuster entertainment. I am not alone in this; every critic worth their salt has been lectured about their distance from the demands of "popular cinema", or has been told that their views are somehow elitist and out of touch (and if you haven't been told this then you are not a critic, you are a "showbiz correspondent"). This has become the shrieking refrain of 21st-century film (anti)culture – the idea that critics are just too clever for their own good, have seen too many movies to know what the average punter wants, and are therefore sorely unqualified to pass judgment on the popcorn fodder that "real" cinema-goers demand from the movies.

This is baloney – and worse, it is pernicious baloney peddled by people who are only interested in money and don't give a damn about cinema. The problem with movies today is not that "real" cinema-goers love garbage while critics only like poncy foreign language arthouse fare. The problem is that we've all learned to tolerate a level of overpaid, institutionalised corporate dreadfulness that no one actually likes but everyone meekly accepts because we've all been told that blockbuster movies have to be stupid to survive. Being intelligent will cause them to become unpopular. Duh! The more money you spend, the dumb and dumberer you have to be. You know the drill: "no one went broke underestimating the public intelligence". That's just how it is, OK?

Well, actually, no. You want proof? OK. Exhibit A: Inception.

Inception is an artistically ambitious and intellectually challenging thriller from writer/director Christopher Nolan, who made his name with the temporally dislocated low- budget "arthouse" puzzler Memento. Nolan unfashionably imagines that his audience are sentient beings, and treats them as such regardless of budget. Memento cost $5m, had no stars or special effects, aimed high nonetheless, expected its audience to keep up, and reaped over $25m in the US alone. Inception cost $160m, had huge stars and blinding special effects, aimed high nonetheless, expected its audience to keep up, and took around $800m worldwide. See a connection here?

Nolan earned the right to make a movie as intelligent and expensive as Inception by grossing Warner Bros close to $1.5bn with 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight'. I remember burbling to Radio-5-Live listeners that 'Batman Begins' was "far smarter than any of us had the right to expect from a movie which cost that much". But why shouldn't it be smart? Why shouldn't we expect movies that "cost that much" to be worth it?

Because we have been told for too long that popular movies must, by their very nature, be 'terrible', and we've all learned to accept this horrendous untruth.

As for Inception, the idea that a "mainstream" audience could embrace a movie that includes the lines "Sorry, whose dream are we in?" and "He's militarised his subconscious!" would seem anathema to the studio heads (and their mealy- mouthed media minions), who have been telling us for decades that dumb is beautiful. Yet Nolan has become one of the most financially reliable directors working in Hollywood without ever checking his intellect in at the door. Did no one explain the rules to him? Did he miss a meeting?

Don't get me wrong; Inception isn't perfect, nor is it "stunningly original", as some would have you believe. The plot, which revolves around explosive industrial espionage played out within the interlocking layers of an unsuspecting psyche, is essentially Dreamscape with A-levels and draws upon a number of populist sources, ranging from Wes Craven's horror sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors to Alejandro Amenábar's Spanish oddity Open Your Eyes (later remade in Hollywood as the inferior Tom Cruise vehicle Vanilla Sky). It is also, in essence, an existential Bond movie: On Her Majesty's Psychiatric Service. But like great pop music, groundbreaking cinema rarely arrives ex nihilo, and the fact that Nolan seems to have watched (and loved) a lot of genre trash in his time merely increases his significant stature in my eyes.

Too many blockbuster movies nowadays seem to be made by people who hate cinema, who have seen too few movies, and who have nothing but contempt for the audiences who pay their grotesquely over-inflated salaries. So, did Inception become a money-spinning hit because it boasts a really smart script?

I'd like to think so, but honestly, no.

Would it have taken less money if it had been less intelligent?

Maybe. Probably not. Who knows?

Would it have taken more money if it been less intelligent?

Maybe. Probably not. Who knows?

Would it have made anything like that amount of money if it didn't include:

a) an A-list star

b) eye-popping special effects

c) a newsworthy budget?

Definitely not.

So what does the success – both financial and artistic – of Inception prove? Simply this: that if you spend enough money, bag an A-list star and pile on the spectacle, the chances are your movie will not lose money, regardless of how smart or dumb it may be. Trying to be funny may be a massive risk (fail and your movie goes down) but trying to be clever never hurt anyone. Clearly, the exact amount of money a movie will ultimately make will be affected to some degree by whether or not anyone actually likes it; Titanic couldn't have become a record-breaking profit-maker if some people hadn't wanted to see it twice, and whatever my own personal problems with the film I concede that loads of people really do love it to pieces. But the fact remains that, if you obey the three rules of blockbuster entertainment, an intelligent script will not (as is widely claimed) make your movie tank or alienate your core audience. Even if they don't understand the film, they'll show up and pay to see it anyway – in just the same way they'll flock to see films that are rubbish, and which they don't actually enjoy. Like Pearl Harbor .

This may sound like a terribly depressing scenario – that multiplex audiences will stump up for "event movies" regardless of their quality. But look at it this way: if the audiences will show up whether a movie is good or bad, then does the opportunity not exist to make something genuinely adventurous with little or no risk? If the studio's money is safe regardless of what they do, artistically speaking, why not do something of which they can be proud? If you're working in a marketplace in which the right kind of gargantuan expense all but guarantees equivalent returns, where's the downside in pushing the artistic envelope? Why dumb down when the dollar is going up?

Why be Michael Bay when you could be Christopher Nolan? In fact, despite the asinine whining of those cultural collaborators who have invested their fortunes in the presumption of the stupidity of others, the blockbuster market arguably offers a level of artistic freedom that no other sector of film financing enjoys. The idea that creative risk must be limited to low or mid-priced movie-making (where you can in fact lose loads of money) while thick-headed reductionism rules the big-budget roost is in fact the very opposite of the truth.

As David Puttnam has been saying for years, the biggest risk in Hollywood at the moment is making a mid-priced, artistically adventurous movie which has a great script but no stars or special effects, ie the kind of film that studios now view as potential financial Kryptonite. It is this area in which producers can most legitimately be forgiven for following a policy of cultural risk avoidance, because it is here that monetary shirts may still be lost. Remember – The Shawshank Redemption, a prison drama with no marquee-name stars or special effects, actually lost money in cinemas (it cost $35m, of which it recouped only $18m in its initial release period) before it went on to become one of the most popular movies of all time on home video. If it had cost $200m, starred Tom Cruise and featured a couple of explosive break-out sequences, it would have broken even in the first few weeks – guaranteed.

For further proof of money's ability to make more money, look at the list of the most expensive movies of the past 20 years and see how infrequently they have failed to turn a profit, regardless of quality. Sam Raimi's baggily substandard Spider-Man 3, which even the fans agree was a calamitous mess (unlike the first two instalments) cost $258m and grossed $885m worldwide. X-Men: The Last Stand, which tested the patience of devotees of both the comic books and the movies, ran up a bill of $210m but still raked in $455m worldwide. James Cameron's Avatar (aka Smurfahontas, or Dances with Smurfs) cost $237m and (if we include the unnecessarily extended "Special Edition' re-release) has achieved global box-office takings just shy of $2.8bn.

Even David Fincher's utterly up-itself The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an upmarket indulgence in which Brad Pitt plays a man who lives his life backwards, managed to balance its $150m costs with worldwide box-office takings in the region of $329m, thanks in part to well-placed news stories about its ultra-expensive special effects. If you take the oft-repeated industry maxim that a film must gross twice its negative cost (the price of actually making the film before incurring print, publicity and distribution costs) in order to earn its keep, then all of these movies were bona fide hits. Working on the same ratio, Bryan Singer's dangerously star-free 2006 superhero flick Superman Returns, featuring Brandon "who he?' Routh, "underperformed' at the box office, with takings of $390m just failing to balance its official cost of $209m (as opposed to the $270m some reported) although ancillary revenues would certainly have pushed it into profit.

Compare that with Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, which I really liked (although crucially my kids didn't) but which only a fool would have financed to the tune of $100m, since it contained no stars (Catherine Keener is an indie queen, James Gandolfini a safe bet only on TV) and boasted deliberately unspectacular (but nonetheless costly) special effects.

Like Heaven's Gate, Where the Wild Things Are was a movie whose budget was totally out of whack with the financial realities of what was on-screen, and it has been widely described as a chastening flop. Jonze's folly still took around $100m in theatres worldwide and has since recouped more on DVD and TV, meaning that the level of its "failure' is far from studio-sinkingly spectacular. Once upon a time, a film like Where the Wild Things Are would have ended Spike Jonze's career and sent industry bosses tumbling from high windows. Today, it is merely a curio from which everyone will walk away unscathed.

This is the not-so-harsh reality of the movie business for top-end productions in the 21st century. For all the bleating and moaning and carping and whingeing that we constantly hear about studios struggling to make ends meet in the multimedia age, those with the means to splash money around will always come out on top. So the next time you pay good money to watch a really lousy summer blockbuster, remember this: the people who made that movie are wallowing in an endless ocean of cash, which isn't going to dry up any time soon. They are floating on the financial equivalent of the Dead Sea , an expanse of water so full of rotting bodies turned to salt that it is literally impossible for them to sink. They could make better movies if they wanted, and the opulent ripples of buoyant hard currency would still continue to lap at their fattening suntanned bodies. If they fail to entertain, engage and amaze you, then it is because they can't be bothered to do better. And if you accept that, then you are every bit as stupid as they think you are.

This is no time to be nice to big-budget movies. This is the time for them to start paying their way, both financially and artistically.

 

I hate detest, despise and abhor "blockbusters"!

P.S. Next research project for you, Sarge is to look up Akira Kurosawa's remarks in the dinner given for him by Spielberg way back, that was televised. Let's just say, Spielberg's name wasn't mentioned in Akira's remarks, but it was obvious to whom Akira was referring, in his cracks about sequels, blockbuster films and the like and why his own films had lived on.

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I do think that blockbusters are more shallow now then they used to be. You can look at some blockbusters from the 70s and 80s, and they obviously are made with care and want to entertain their audience, but you look at quite a few today and they just feel hollow. I remember a few years ago that the magazine GQ made a ruckus by saying that Top Gun in 1986 killed the movies. I wouldn't say that. The movies are still alive. But if there is a blockbuster that I do feel is responsible for many of these noisy, chaotic spectacles today is 1996's Independence Day. And despite some pans and because of the hype machine, it grossed over $300,000,000. It was a bad bad thing. You might also say Twister in the same year, but that one seemingly didn't start a whole rave of tornado-prone copycats.

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What all these industry articles reveal (I think) is that the system is set up the way it is today to ensure that even a bad movie will still make money. The sneaky accounting and the overseas markets give lousy producers leeway to do everything wrong (usually by a crazy zeal for frugality) and they will still keep their position in the pecking order. In other words: there's no incentive at all to strive to make a high-quality movie. There's every incentive to make the cheapest and then merely crow about the size of the profit margin at the end of the year.

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On 4/4/2019 at 4:46 PM, rosebette said:

I think there are many fine movies still being made, but many of the current big budget, popular movies are basically live-action cartoons, often devoid of comprehensible dialogue and filled with one noisy, CGI created special effects action scene after another.    Those who claim that today's movies are more "realistic" are off base as more films are focused on fantasy action figures and unbelievable plots.  I prefer movies with a true narrative arc, intelligent dialogue, and well-drawn characters.

Agreed. When I see an ad for a movie coming out soon, there is not much there to entice me. There is far too much violence in films today. Also, there seems to be a lot of remakes. Why remake a film? I suppose to grab a younger audience. I just don't care for what's out there nowadays, although I did see Stan & Ollie the other night and thought it was superb. 

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Re:WHY DO SOME CLASSIC MOVIE FANS BASH NEWER FILMS?

I don't know, go figure. ;)

 

Funny how the reverse happened. :lol:  I'm not wasting time posting on the "I Just Watched" thread.

7590f8ee95c590e73ee95465f09feecd.jpg

 

Better off pushing America's Best eyeglasses on us. 

(only found this out by the Directv guide)

220px-Legend_of_the_Guardians_film_poste

 

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So basically, if you're talking about the industry that makes art, it's dying. If you're talking about the one that makes money, it's thriving.

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1 hour ago, Kay said:

So basically, if you're talking about the industry that makes art, it's dying. If you're talking about the one that makes money, it's thriving.

That is one way of looking at it.   Another way is;  it (the movie making industry) was never about making art but always about making money,  and if some great art was created as a byproduct, that is great.

As for the individuals in the 'arts',  I have found that for most it is about:  making enough money so one can focus on making art.

   

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9 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

As for the individuals in the 'arts',  I have found that for most it is about:  making enough money so one can focus on making art.

This comment reminds me of a radio interview I once heard with musician Huey Lewis.

The interviewer remarked that his current record was very different from what the public was used to hearing from him. Lewis told him he made public-friendly music so he could afford to record the type of music he really wanted to produce.

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Someone mentioned "The Mummy" and that is a great example of how a reboot can just become a dumpster fire. I actually liked the 1999 remake. It was an interesting take on the original Universal horror film. But then came the recent Tom Cruise film and to me it was just a disaster. Universal was trying to institute a new "Universal Horror/Monster Universe" and in the process introduced a bunch of new characters that had nothing to do with the plot, which seemed to have some random mummy attached. A pet peeve of mine? Once a remake is done, the cable channels will ONLY replay the most recent remake, regardless of how awful it is.

I think a reason for many of the really awful remakes and remakes that don't seem to add anything new to the story is that now about 75% of revenue from American made films comes from outside of the United States. Thus the studios really don't care if Americans don't like the junky comic book movies that they make. The only time the studios  try to make film as art is at the end of the year when aiming at the Academy Awards.

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3 minutes ago, calvinnme said:

Someone mentioned "The Mummy" and that is a great example of how a reboot can just become a dumpster fire. I actually liked the 1999 remake. It was an interesting take on the original Universal horror film. But then came the recent Tom Cruise film and to me it was just a disaster. Universal was trying to institute a new "Universal Horror/Monster Universe" and in the process introduced a bunch of new characters that had nothing to do with the plot, which seemed to have some random mummy attached. A pet peeve of mine? Once a remake is done, the cable channels will ONLY replay the most recent remake, regardless of how awful it is.

I think a reason for many of the really awful remakes and remakes that don't seem to add anything new to the story is that now about 75% of revenue from American made films comes from outside of the United States. Thus the studios really don't care if Americans don't like the junky comic book movies that they make. The only time the studios  try to make film as art is at the end of the year when aiming at the Academy Awards.

Hollywood movies have always been made with an eye on international exhibition. That goes back to the silent film days. Most were never just intended for American audiences.

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12 hours ago, Kay said:

So basically, if you're talking about the industry that makes art, it's dying. If you're talking about the one that makes money, it's thriving.

:huh:  :wacko:

???

"ART"?

I thought we were discussing MOVIES!  ;)

Sepiatone

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Just now, TopBilled said:

U.S. films have always been made with an eye on international exhibition. That goes back to the silent days.

True, but not with the high percentage of revenue coming from overseas that they have today. Did you know in the early sound days they had to phonetically sound out the foreign language versions of the films? Poor Buster Keaton had to make the MGM films that he disliked so much in English, Spanish, AND French! I think it led to him becoming such a severe alcoholic.

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:D

Which does remind me.....

I used to work with a guy who actually thought that WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY was a TRUE English dubbed translation of a Japanese movie!  :D 

Sepiatone

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