Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hollywood don't make (good) movies no more, all they do is this...

All they do is this...
And by this I mean: push profit over passion, instant gratification, dumb down a nation and more — grime, crime and gore, introducing the latest whore, they leave you high, dry and wanting more. But more of what? CREAM, get the money —dolla, dolla bill ya'll!

Movies have come a long way since The Birth of a Nation, which was arguably the first Hollywood blockbuster. In 1915 when that movie was made it cost the equivalent of about $2.2 million to produce. Now the average cost of a Hollywood film continues to climb over $100 million. That is just a shadow of the more than $300 million that is estimated to have gone into the production of Hollywood's latest blockbuster, James Cameron's Avatar. It's also estimated that about $150 million was put towards the marketing of Avatar. And in the opening weekend along the movie brought in $232 million, so obviously there is big business in making movies.

Anymore it seems as if studios are putting out products that are just good enough for a theater run, with the anticipation of the shaking money maker — DVD sales.
Bonus features. Director's cut. Unrated. Deleted scenes. Alternate endings. It's all a lure to get you to fork over $10 to see the movie in theaters, but then turn around and pay another $18 to watch the same movie on your own time, but oh (throwing my hands in the air waiving them like Mrs. Beasley praising his name) there are these extra frills for you too. There it is, the engine propelling the vicious cycle.
Simply put; it doesn't pay to make a good movie. It just pays to make a movie.

Whereas the analytical movie viewer would watch a piece of art and wonder, why didn't the character do this or that? Well, now who cares; watch the director's cut and he or she will likely explain his creation and hold your hand as to erode any last shrivel of imagination and critical thinking skills that may remain. That's like showing a dog a treat and not making him at least sit in order to receive it. Spoon feed us our medicine, Hollywood.

So by pushing profits over passion, or better yet, making profits your passion, Hollywood has lost its griot abilities.
The ability to tell a good story is lost to the machine.
Time and time again, I find myself disappointed by the product Hollywood studios push out. They do such a good job marketing these widgets that I keep falling into the trap. One obvious solution; lower my expectations. Another, challenge Hollywood to step it up and yet a third option ... if you can't beat em join em, so anyone reading this who is willing to take a risk on a proven writer, you already know. (In case you missed it, that was a shameless self plug).

Armed with a bachelors in communications for Ohio University, with an emphasis in film history and appreciation, Patrick Dain lived and worked in Los Angeles for 3 years and before leaving in search of more pure pursuits. While in LA he worked as a story editor for Ben Stiller's Red Hour Productions.
"One of the things I learned while I was out there, is, it's a surprise that any movie gets made, said Dain, a man I have affectionately dubbed Mr. Movie. "If it's hard to make a movie it's damn near impossible to make a great movie."
What makes a great movie in his eyes is telling a good story. That's the root of what drew Mr. Movie his passion and the one constant in his life.

Now he too says, studios have lost track of that ability to tell a good story and put the money into flashy marketing, special effects and lose the substance, including character development.
"Now (studios) are too caught up in computer generated stuff and fancy camera work and you lose track of the overall story," he said. "Too much effort is put on trying to make as much money as quickly as possible to feed into the hype."
Of the many things he experience while being a part of the machine, is a since of bitterness, "you just kind of learn to poo poo everything," he added.

But Joshua Edwards still thinks good movies are being made when you look at production value, but the void is in the volume of original movies. As a junior agent with Los Angeles offices of Don Buchwald and Associates, a talent and literary agency, Edwards sees the talent side of Hollywood.

Although studios are making fewer movies these days, largely because the financiers — in most cases hedge funds and venture capitalists— are not willing to take as many risks in a down economy, production value is at an all time high with the use of emerging technology in both equipment and special effects, Edwards said. To lower the risk, those who fund movies opt to back projects like hero movies or adaptations because those usually have a bigger pay day. And studios spend less marketing something like a Shrek or a Spider-Man than they would a Hangover or another title that is new to the market.

So that means studios are making fewer movies each year than, say, the late 80s when studios were vying for their identity. Now names like Lionsgate, Sony and Paramount are recognizable and you have a general idea of what kind of movie is coming from each studio because each has carved their niche.
"If you define quality as originality, there was more quality back then," Edwards said. "Studios are making fewer films these days."

Because fewer movies are being made, there are also fewer acting vehicles for talent; and the movies that are keeping Hollywood afloat, many don't demand strong acting skills.
"You don't have to know how to act in the least bit to carry the lead in a (movie like) Transformers. The highest paid actors right now aren't doing movies that require strong acting skills," Edwards said.
Movies that made actors like Denzel Washington famous were acting vehicles. There were story lines that required actors who carried depth to characters. There was some subtlety involved.

Fact: Hollywood movies mostly cater to American audiences. This target group requires that you beat them over the head with details and explain everything, flushing any level of deeper analysis.
"In older movies there was a level of subtlety, you could put a camera on a character and have them think something and if they were good enough at their job the audience would understand," said Dain, Mr. Movie.
It's not that such acting is completely absent in what is being put out of Hollywood now, but it sure isn't as prevalent as it once was.

The major blockbusters of 2009 did not require great acting, although some did emerge. Most of these movies weren't even original movies, remakes, sequels and adaptations.
What I want from a movie is something that will challenge me to escape the often nihilistic confines of our corporately conducted lives. However, the Machiavellian industry and town that produces this supposed escape has failed me and you.
I'll admit there have been a few pleasant surprises in some movies of the recent past.
I agree with my pal, Mr. Movie; it will be interesting to see how Neil Blomkamp, the director and co-writer of District 9, becomes part of the Hollywood machine now. He has been knighted one of the up and coming directing talents.

I understand the machine is a necessary evil. Movies are made for both entertainment and to make money. However, as a means to that end, let the art of telling a good and engaging story rise to the top.
"The genius of a good movie, is if you can pull X, and I can pull Y, and you and I can sit down and talk about it... It's like a good novel or a good painting," said Dain.

The panacea would be simple in a Utopian society. Have less money involved. When you have so many millions of dollars being thrown around like peanuts it effects everything. Studios have no choice but to spend money on marketing and the hype machine, they are just trying to make their money back. The sector of the industry wielding power over that money is the actors, the high profile ones that bloggers make a name from, are demanding too much control; points off the back end, percentages of the gross, that in addition to the $20 million up front.
Knowing that big money will always be a part of Hollywood productions, my simple request is, tell a good story, man!
Tell a good story and let the people continue to dance.


  1. Love the article. "Tell a good story, man"..... that's what it's all about right there.

  2. I agree my friend. It all comes down to the "two shot" and the story. The relationship between two characters and the challenges they face throughout the story.

  3. Thanks fellas, and a timely response to the Blomkamp question is answered, at least for now...

  4. Great piece. Maybe the industry will learn from Paranormal Activity and become more focused on creativity and story as opposed to budget. I was reading something (Nyquil high, can't rmbr the site) about filmmakers releasing directly through the web and then making profits on DVD and merchandise sales. Apparently it's worked for a quite a few newbies.

    BTW u should also submit this to Salon, Slate, Huff Post, FreshXpress, and The Griot. Peace!

  5. I have an interesting Hollywood story to share with you, my friend. I met one of the men of my dreams some years back as a college student in Mexico City. Very talented, genius of a man he was, may even still be. And against all odds, no godfather or grandfathering in, not an ounce of Jewish blood in him, but homie had skills boooy! He could tell a story like no other person I’d ever met. Revolutionary in his ways and words and most importantly, on 35mm film. Buena Vista busted out the checkbook and censorship requirements. Not an option. But it did catch the eye of an Art and Independent Film Distributor in Mexico who wanted in no matter what. Made it to the big screens, yes. Hollywood had another thing coming though. Coming out that is… Fantastic Four, in full force!!! Taking up the best times and best theatres, media hype monster in full effect. We were no match at the box office. But like you said, there’s always DVD sales right? Sony picked it up, distributed, available at Blockbuster even. And one day, walking merrily down one of Mexico’s busy downtown merchant streets near the Zocalo, there it was. It hurt. He hurt. For a brief moment made me even consider no longer purchasing pirated products. Don’t get me wrong, he was more than well received by thousands including some of the who’s who in Mexico, film festivals, movie critics, rockstars, etc. But it wasn’t enough against the monster. I became witness to the mental and spiritual anguish it caused this young and extremely talented director. I learned so much about the movie industry next to him, about problems I would have never even imagined existed. And sadly enough, he succumbed. Pressures from all around were too great. Hollywood, really? But we were in Mexico! WTF!