Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Was Thinking...

There's a lot of cynicism that surrounds contemporary movies. Sure, they are big, dumb, filled to the brim with special effects but you know, at least they look good, are functional and well made, no? The advancement of CGI may have, for the most part, stripped film of it's authenticity, but even as recently as the 80s, just plain bad filmmaking was doing just about the same thing. This came into my mind last night as I was watching Teen Wolf Too for the first time. Needless to say, it was all kinds of awful. And yet it wasn't awful for the same reasons that today's movies are awful. It was awful because it was sloppy and lazy and made with little care or concern for anything other than getting it made. At least today's movies try their best. Their priorities are just in the wrong place. Today's market is concerned with hooking onto fads, playing up gimmicks, finding trends to beat into the ground, etc. It's not that movies today are bad, they just lack the vision required to make them anything special. Sure, there will always be stupid and lazy romantic comedies and bloated action movies, but on a whole, today's films don't lack ambition, they just lack any desire to do anything but colour inside the lines. Even the worst of contemporary films like Transformers 2, isn't without the drive to be bigger and louder than every other movie out there. In fact, it's problem is that it has too much of that drive to the point where it is blinded to its own misgivings. That's not the problem with films back in the day. Their problem was that they were made incompetently but under the same assembly line mentality as today. Think about it: here we have the sequel to a (very bad) popular film, let's put as little money into it as possible and get huge returns. I mean, look at this: There is no way you would ever see something so blatantly stupid or lazy in today's Hollywood films. So thus I'm left asking the question: is it better to have empty, meaningless films that look good, are ambitious and are well made, or stupid, lazy ones like this? I don't know the answer although I tend towards the contemporary ones. Thoughts?


  1. I choose neither. I think it's better to go against the grain, really try and make a film that reflects what movies should be about: telling a story.
    Hollywood has really lost a lot of it's glitz and glamour....leaning towards the desperate and mindless rather than the old days of pioneering. Wasn't that the point of early motion pictures? To capture reality and show it to audiences? (horse galloping frames)Does that mean then that those stupid, lazy movies are a reflection of us now? I surely hope not...
    There needs to be a revolution in Hollywood. Someone needs to break out of this low-brow, mainstream-blow em up, say fuck as many times as possible crud and really step it up. Great films do come out, but they don't garner the attention they should and that saddens me.

    I like the post!

  2. This is a lot you've left to chew on, some of which needs to be addressed because I half agree with you and a half don't. As far as going against the grain, I don't know, I'm happy with a movie that does the same old thing and does it well (look at my review of Just Wright). As I expressed over at Encore Entertainment a few days ago, the originality debate bothers me, as someone who loves movies of all shapes and sizes and not just "original ones."

    You are right though, the original purpose of film was to tell a story with pictures. I don't if early films were any more focused on showing reality than today's movies are, although I must reference back to a much earlier post I wrote about the difference between film reality and our reality.

    I think stupid lazy movies are not quite a reflection of us because I think deep down we yearn for something new and something of quality which explains why films like Pulp Fiction or Paranoid Activity or even Avatar blow up. The problem is, as this whole list I am doing shows, Hollywood sees money once and wants to keep digging in the same spot. That's even more attractive today where studios feel less included to take risks because a big loss in this economy could mean disaster, so instead let's throw a big star into a stupid comedy, resurected/remake a successful franchise and make it look all glossy. And I'm okay with that when it's done well. I love big Hollywood movies and I don't think swearing is a big deal (look at Goodfellas after all).

    I don't know if Hollywood needs a revolution, because it seems to flip flop back and forth about every 5-10 years and I feel already as if movies in 2010 have been an improvement over 2009 even if its just that they are merely watchable as opposed to horrible. I'll take that.

    I although I would love for what you are saying to come true, someone to say, hey, we need to make a change, I wrote this from the perspective that this is something we just need to deal with. Hollywood has always produced crap, even in it's golden age.

  3. Tough question, but I'm not one of those Hollywood haters. I think the reason we see so many "bad" films is because the number of films made has grown exponentially over the years so that the industry is now a literal giant catering for all (including the faddists, and the crazy teens). It's the egg and chicken argument, did Hollywood make these films the fashion or are the rabid fans the reason they're being made?

  4. Interesting point raised Mike...

    I agree with Andrew, in that the issue is there are so many more of these types of average blockbuster now - it's overkill.

    But I would agree that they are better made but I suppose that is merely progression of technology. One could argue there is a charm in the 80s amateurish nowadays and perhaps in 2050 we will be stating the same thing about todays films - their charm and/or amateur shortfalls.

  5. Hilarious clip. I would like to see TW Too sometime, if only because it's one of my "punching bag" movies -- movies I refer to as signs of terrible trends, without actually having seen them. For some reason, the discussion of using the word "Too" instead of "2" or "II" in a sequel title seems to come up with me regularly -- I wrote a whole post about it a couple months ago -- and of course that always comes back to Teen Wolf Too.

    Although I appreciate what the other commenters have said, I think they may have missed Mike's point a little bit. That being: There's no such thing as an incompetent movie anymore. Most movies that we call "bad" are actually "good" in the sense that they are reasonably well shot, edited, directed and acted. The film industry on the whole seems to be savvier and more aware of their bottom line than ever these days, which means that true disasters never get released anymore. I for one actually LOVE seeing a true disaster like Teen Wolf Too, not only because it's howlingly (pun intended) funny, but because it represents a rare failure of the checks and balances system that's supposed to be in place, to prevent movies from going out with glaring errors/holes in them. Even the worst movie I see any year is only ranked as such because it is extremely lame and uninspired, not because the people involved didn't know how to make a movie.

  6. I see your point, Vance. I suppose I wasn't looking at movies from the point-of-view that they are there to make money or to produce a large profit margin.

    I think there is a part of me that would like movies (that are released through Hollywood) to be less about special effects and more about good stories. I would make a horrible Hollywood Executive...I'd be way too romantic and idealistic in the films I sent through to production. I wouldn't care about the profit, I'd care about the meaning.

    Thinking about what sort of films will come out in 2050, in the context of a conversation such as Hollywood and it's search for money and glory, makes me tired. :)

    I still maintain, Mike, that Hollywood does need a revolution. At the very least, it needs a rival that is equal in size to it. Someone to stand toe to toe with it and challenge them to a higher standard. (while the idealist in me is refusing to shut up today, I won't pretend that I'm not entertained by hollywood films, because sometimes I am.) I just don't think they should produce movies for the sheer purpose of making a lot of money (even with the economy being a factor). It's cheap and almost like prostitution. They shouldn't sully the art for profit alone.... (referencing your comment that throwing a big name in a stupid movie as ok.) Cinema is an art form, it should mean more to us than that...? I do need to be quiet now, eh? I neither mean to discredit your love for films nor do I mean to offend you, I'm merely rambling, I suppose.

  7. I think we may be talking about slightly different things -- I don't excuse movies their shortcomings on the basis of the fact that they are merely there to make money. I'm talking about what Mike's said in terms of the idea that truly misbegotten films don't get released very often. There are enough different people saying "yea" or "nay" about films these days that the kind of clip Mike included would get stopped by a half-dozen different people before it ever made it into the final cut of the film. Unless we're talking about straight-to-video movies, which is a whole different story.

    As for the rest of the argument, about movies needing to exist more for art than profit ... yeah, and one day monkeys might fly out of my butt! (To paraphrase two wise scholars.) It just ain't happenin'. The best we can do is find films that do interesting things within the confines of marketability. Let's take someone like Christopher Nolan. All of his films are within genres that are extremely marketable, yet he does interesting things that don't make us roll our eyes. This is the kind of Hollywood I celebrate, and know that I have to take the rest of the bad in order to get this good. With any art form, you have to have the bad to know (and appreciate) the good.

    Good discussion!

  8. Yes Vance, despite how many mistakes there were in the Transformers movie, none of them were as glaringly obvious as that Teen Wolf clip, which Jillian Stark reported yesterday has been picked up to become a series on MTV. Sigh.

    Like Andrew and others I am also not a Hollywood hater. I think whatever Hollywood is doing is exciting and I love the big blockbusters as much as the next person, especially when they are done well and it seems that so far the summer of 2010 is shaping up to be much better than 2009.

    A Hollywood revolution just just make sense because no matter what the circumstances a business is a business and all business comes down to the same thing. If a change needs to be made it's that Hollywood needs to take more chances on original stories. Look at the success of Avatar, Paranormal Activity, Gone With the Wind, Titanic, the list goes on forever. Big money from movies that are both entertaining and very good. I think no matter how popular Twilight gets (there will always be fads), people will still flock to original films made by reputable filmmakers if they are made avilable to the public and advertised properly. I forever believe one of the worst things to happen to movies is the drive for the opening weekend gross, which is mostly the result of the creation of multiplexes.

    And also, I think there are enough genuine artists still left in Hollywood that are making good and profitable movies that we need to worry (Martin Scorses, Nolan, Aronofsky, Soderberg, Reitman and the list goes on).