Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dear Hollywood ...

... Please Shut The Fuck Up and Make Better Movies.

That's right. You heard me.

Oh, I went there.

In fact, I might stay there.

I might even live there!

I totally would!


If ... you know ... all my stuff wasn't still ... you know ... here.

Anyhow ... why the sudden hostility, you ask? Well, with a new batch of weekend movie releases fast approaching, I was thumbing through an article recently in the NY Times about how The Industry is terribly nervous about the month of August. Box office grosses, it seems, look to be receding as Summer '09 winds down.

Well, you know what, The Industry? Howzabout you shut your goddamn whine-hole.

The Industry: "Wah! My dipee's full of stinkiness! Pay me!"

I am officially sick to my ass of these "sky is falling" stories. They pop up like clockwork every single time ticket sales aren't breaking records. Over and over we hear the same whinging and complaining from The Industry.

Over and over we hear how attendance is down, or how people aren't buying enough DVDs, or how -- somehow -- it's been determined that audiences suddenly don't like movies anymore.

Over and over we hear how, somehow, it's OUR fault.

"Why won't you give us money? We've given you SO much warmed-over crap!"

I get hoarse from shouting it so often ...

But I'll shout it again for those of you in the back who may not have heard me the first 4,852 times.

Contrary to the "conclusions" of our learned and esteemed experts in the entertainment press, the reason The Industry is so nervous about August right now is NOT because the economy's in the shitter. It ISN'T because there's any kind of "blockbuster fatigue." And it CERTAINLY ISN'T because audiences are suddenly sick of going to the movies.

Want to know why grosses are down and why The Industry is nervous?

Are you sure you want to know?

Cuz you may not be able to handle the brain-blasting mind-hammer I'm about to bring down on your shit.

Okay ... you were warned. Remember, I'm not liable if your head suddenly turns inside out.

Here goes ... the real reason The Industry is nervous about August is ...


Sweet, buttery Jesus, people! Is that really so hard for The Industry to fathom?

I've been saying this for years and I sound like a broken and tedious record. (Think "Sussudio" with a louder horn section.)

I have beaten this particular dead horse so hard and so often that nothing remains but hooves and horse dust. It's astounding to me how simple and obvious the answer is ... and yet how thoroughly The Industry and the press refuse to ever acknowledge it.

Sometimes a movie's success actually has something to do with whether the movie's any good.

Did I just blow your mind?

Didn't think so. Seems pretty obvious, right?

Well, not to everybody, apparently.

"It's the audience's fault! Why won't they wuv us!?"

Because bafflingly, the media and The Industry always behave as though a film's quality has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on its financial success. To them, all movies are identical commodditites upon release and the sole determining factor in ticket sales is marketing.

Sure, on a bad day, the sad, broken, stone-hearted cynic who lives inside me might be inclined to agree with that. After all, it's been proven repeatedly that, with enough of an advertising budget, dreadful movies can make assloads of cash. A recent giant robot movie leaps to mind ...

But on average, movies that make huge bank tend to have at least a few elements of quality to them. Which is not to say they're all great art or socially important works. Or that they'll even make any critics' ten best lists. But successful movies tend to feature at least one or two sparks of filmmaking and storytelling competence that audiences connect with.

Whether it's structure, character, concept, actor, visuals, soundtrack, what have you -- there are usually well-executed elements that can and should be linked to the resulting box office success.

And admittedly, even the aforementioned giant robot movie apparently had some eye-popping visual whiz-bangery to recommend it.

"I transform into a girl robot who can read and stuff. Also boobs! Yay!"

But when we get a cosmic convergence like we have now ... when all the big studios have simultaneously targeted the same few weeks to dump their dullest, weakest summer movies into theaters ... well, of course things will look bleak.

But despite what the big studios would have you think, that's not actually YOUR fault.

Whose fault is it? Theirs, obviously. The studios just don't seem willing to spend the time or energy to make movies not suck these days. Admittedly, it's incredibly easy for me to armchair write, direct and produce. And yes, with a zillion moving pieces, it's actually really hard to make a GOOD movie.

But at times it seems like they're not even trying. Times like -- oh, I don't know -- this entire summer, maybe? With a few notable exceptions (Star Trek and Up, leap to mind) this has been one of the worst summers for blockbusters I can remember in a long time. One big disappointment after another.

And yet, the studios expect us to keep lining up at the trough to eagerly choke down their slop anyway.

And if we don't, it's our fault, not theirs.

Though, interestingly, they NEVER seem to credit those same customers when a movie is wildly popular. Nope, that's when they crow about how awesome their movie is. Curious, that. They'll take credit for the successes, but we get saddled with the failures. Somehow it was US that let THEM down. We've broken their tender little hearts.

Well I, for one, am really torn up about that. Sure I am.

You know what, The Industry? If it salves your poor bruised and wilted feelings, I shall erect a monument in your honor to celebrate your grandeur, your wisdom and your artistic prowess.

"THE INDUSTRY: Not At All Petulant, Short-Sighted or Lazy."

"Also: Bronze Baby Dingus."

It's a marvel of reverse psychology, really. Not to mention, sadly emblematic of the dismissive and condescending way The Industry tends to regard its own customers.

Well, let me tell you something, The Industry, most of the time when a movie "fails to find an audience" that's usually because that movie doesn't actually deserve one.

People don't just stop buying pants because they suddenly and inexplicably turn into pant-hating jerks. They stop buying pants because the pants that are being sold are poorly made and the asses blow out when you put them on.

This is NOT a marketing issue. It's a production line issue.

My prediction? While the "Big Hollywood Studio Movies" fall on their faces this weekend ... look for some break-outs from surprising places. While G.I. Joe's receipts are dropping off 60 to 75%, look for a well-made "little" movie like District 9 to sneak in and make a splash.

Then sit back and wait for the next round of Chicken Little stories from the entertainment media. Marvel at how they take the hugely illogical leap to the conclusion that ... if people aren't going to G.I. Joe, then somehow the American Movie-Going Public has decided that it no longer likes the idea of tentpole movies.

It couldn't possibly be that G.I. Joe just smells like a butt. Nope. Not possible. Because all movies are exactly the same.

It makes the brain hurt.

Okay. Sermon = done.

Have a steaming sack of The Industry, won't you?

Till next we meet ...

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