Is Money What’s Wrong With Movies?

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There’s a huge contention out there in the world who are under the belief that all films are the same. That they are manufactured stories that cannot deviate too far from a decided formula in fear of not reaching the financial goals that we hope all films will make, that sacred $100m domestic gross at the box office.

While I will not spend this post talking about how that’s wrong, that all films are the same. But rather I’m curious of one thing. Is money the reason why all films are similar?

This past summer we saw the film The Lone Ranger where Disney shelled out $250m for a film about a guy on a horse being all good and lovely. When recently asked Mark Wahlberg gave some very candid responses on what he thought was the problem and how that film ended up flopping so badly:

“They are spending so much money to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes with these effects-driven movies,” he said. “It’s not like ‘Jurassic Park,’ where you saw something groundbreaking and innovative and said ‘Holy … I gotta see that. Every end-of-the-Earth movie kind of feels the same.”

Now it’s easy to understand that not all films can be groundbreaking but under the Hollywood system that exists the tone of filmmaking has always been if you want it to be big in the end all you have to do is throw money at it.

In a recent interview Spike Lee was asked whether it’s harder to raise $25m or $1m for a film. Where he simply said, “It’s harder to raise a million than twenty-five million”. He further elaborates:

“There’s this mindset that a film costs a million dollars, there’s very little want to see, or very little return on investment on a film that small… There’s a prejudice against a film under a million”

So now we understand that the bigger budget a film is the more likely it is that it can get funded to be made. So if big budget = same movie, then all movies are the same?

I can’t find the actual quote but I remember reading once Woody Allen saying something to the effect that blockbuster filmmaking changed the business of Hollywood. That due to the fact that these big films were being made then the risk factor became larger and therefore Hollywood was less interested in the smaller budget films they had done before where they say it as such a small investment they allowed filmmakers the freedom so that the film was able to be a smaller financial risk to the studio.

So is what this is all saying is that money is the problem in Hollywood and filmmaking? For everyone out there who sits in defiance of big budget filmmaking and falls asleep in the theatre trying to give two shits about whether the good guy prevails in the end? Should we just stop heading to the multiplex at all? Where do I go for movies now?

Hate Watching: A Genre Or Cinematic Cutting

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Almost two years ago I wrote about movies so bad people find them entertaining, but something seems to have changed. With the sudden phenomenon that is live tweeting certain films that make what would be usually ignored pieces of trash into event movies. I remember recently so far being Liz & Dick and the latest apocalypse that is Sharknado.  There’s even a weekly online get together hosted by Kevin Carr where every week they find a movie (usually available streaming) and time their start time to begin the social media tirade on the film. I can’t understand it.

Let’s begin with me admitting that I honestly believe that there are people out there who non-sarcastically adore these films, I assume based on my general shotgun principle, through and through. If you are this person, I am not talking about you. I love you and I hope you keep enjoying this pile of sharks spinning in a tornado to make the epic that is Sharknado. I hope you tell the tale of when you first saw it and your life was changed for the better.

So… for the rest of you all who took to this moment in television history with little else to do that night. Why? I honestly want to know. Why? As your eyes started to peel away throughout the even did you start to hate yourself for committing to this film? I honestly can’t figure it out.

General sarcastic viewing of things is done in a sense of mocking it’s actual audience. The sincere audience of a thing who walk in their with their suspension of disbelief perfectly in tact and willing to enjoy the silly that is Sharknado. The sarcastic crowd are the people who come up with Honest Trailers or Cinema Sins/Everything Wrong With. which is a thing that I really hate seeing sometimes. While some films deserve to have the shit kicked out of them why then take a skeptical eye to a movie like that when you know that’s what you’re looking for.

The thing about it is movies require a sense of optimism in order for it to turn out to have any sense of connection with the viewer. If you as a viewer aren’t willing to give yourself to the world of a movie it’s not going to do anything other than enrage you. So why bother to go into a movie basically looking to make a tally of all of it’s cinematic sins and general stupidity. Movies are inherently stupid. If you want to debate how probable it is for a single man to take back a tower taken over by terrorists on Christmas Eve without any shoes on or that dinosaurs DNA can be reconstructed and brought back into existence thanks to mosquitoes, then you’ve got a bigger problem than coming up with the latest twitter quip for Nicolas Cage’s next hair style.

I’m not making a case against B-movies. B-movies can be fun. When you think about it really films like Lockout and Dredd are basically B-movies. This is all the way to J-movies, or maybe even as far as M-movies. These are the movies so bad that when the year is out the only way you’ll find it is if you have a friend who didn’t bother to remove it from their DVR.

Pedro Almodovar: A Painter that Picked up a Camera

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Over the last few months of the summer so far, while the blockbuster season has been relatively kind to me, I’ve been spending it with Pedro Almodovar. With my current disposition to be marathoning through filmmaker’s canon I found myself in the need of Spanish cinema, so I turned to the one man who’s films have been deemed weird, entertaining and all around interesting with every turn and that is Mr. Almodovar.

With prior to this staged viewing having only seen his most recent (other than the film that was released this past week in limited) film, The Skin I Live In – which I adored – I felt inspired to delve deeper.

There are two qualities in Almodovar’s filmmaking and storytelling that strike me the most when I attempt to vaguely generalize him into a few sentences (as I shall here). This is: (1) He is a fantastic teller of female tales, while many films try so hard to minimalize women his films always seem to be empowering women in ways that even the few female writer/directors working today don’t quite do right now; and (2) He paints his frames with such elegant broad strokes as if it’s a canvas so often, I love the way his settings are always so bright and filled with colour so that it just sears its way into your mind.

Almodovar - BanderasWhile I began my marathon feeling that Almodovar may have been indestructible, I can honestly say that he isn’t so perfect walking away. His 2009 and 2004 features, Broken Embraces and Bad Education both served as reminders that perfection can’t always be reached. With both features they present these broken narratives about almost two different characters and slowly tries to meet itself in the middle with explanations as to how each character became each other’s transitional period and in both occasions it just felt off. I honestly wanted to love it, but something about them both just didn’t click. I almost want to blame myself and my cynical self attempting to try and believe that this coincidental happening would actually exist in the real world. However, I later prove to myself that it’s the story and not my own personal hang ups since this is a trope used in a lot of Almodovar’s films and a lot his movies I loved.

Then we get to the weird. Almodovar’s films always seem to capture a part of sexuality that in another hand becomes kink and just exploitative. When he has a film, like Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, which is about a man kidnapping a woman (who plays a former drug addict and porn star) in order to make her love him it’s weird to see it not turn completely into a S&M story. The sex is always there in the corner of the room, but somehow Almodovar creates a tension by having the woman in such a submissive position (tied up) and never actually taking it like how you’d expect. Then when the sex finally comes it’s like the culmination of actual sex, it’s glorious. There’s also his work in The Flower of My Secret which stages the story of an older woman who finds love, and while it never seems distinctly sexual there are a lot of moments – especially with her distant husband – where we see her throwing herself at him with stark language that we can’t help but attempt to understand the role of sexuality in a relationship, which is something we don’t typically see in films. In film sex is used just as curiously as an grand action sequence is. It feels like a candy that we want to get to while we’re force fed the vegetables on our plate, as opposed to just being a complementary part of the meal. Almodovar changes that into something bigger, better, and generally more thought provoking.

However, if I were to nail down THE BEST of his that I’ve so far experienced it falls directly to Volver, All About My Mother and Talk To Her. I was lukewarm with Volver when I first discussed it for the marathonAlmodovar - Cruz, but something about that movie has stuck with me and thinking about it two months after first watching it I can’t seem to deny how wonderful Almodovar paints with that story. I can’t get out of my mind how much he had me believing that she was actually a ghost until the film said otherwise. With All About My Mother and Talk To Her what played so well is how Almodovar can toy with narrative and relationships to make compelling imagery. With his use of the Pina dances in Talk To Her and previous film work (like All About Eve) to show the now stereotypical strong female role in art within All About My Mother keeps you engaged throughout.

With all this said the film that will always stick with me is All About My Mother. The film’s mythological feel to it is just always at the forefront of my mind as I think about Almodovar. It tells so much about the idea of character and writing for characters. We’re reminded that as long as we are invested and love our main character we’re willing to make the leaps that the character makes in order to make her (or him) into this grand hero.

I started this post telling you that Almodovar is really a painter and that’s what I truly believe. Every art form has it’s own rules, guidelines and general understandings. Film, unlike most other art forms, is usually hindered due to narrative conventions. However, Almodovar rises above those conventions to create something emotional that gives off more than just a narrative, it emits a feeling that is palpable and I doubt many could deny. However I shall let Almodovar himself have the final word.

What do you think of Pedro Almodovar’s Films?

 

When We Fail At Watching Films, Do We Feel Guilt?

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Even Ben Affleck is asleep in that one

So, some of you may have noticed my lack of a Blindspot post this month. While I have procrastinated a bit this month on the matter I can honestly say that this hasn’t become my lastest problem due to a lack of trying. Last night serves as my third attempt to watch Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God. I even have a half written review where I did up this somewhat humorous, which I assume nobody would find funny, post with me reviewing my guess as to what Aguirre is all about and how he’s basically suffering throughout the whole thing. (I don’t know how right I am).

This brings an important question to mind. “Is it okay to give up on a film?” I’m not sure. I’ve many a time said that you can’t judge a film without having truly experienced it fully, this includes having your wits about you for that experience as opposed to passively consuming it. It’s easy to look at the film and claim, “I tried and didn’t get it” but somehow when your unable to get into the movie at all and the only effect that the movie inspires in you is becoming unconscious as soon as physically possible, more than likely before the film has even ended, then I’m not sure what to do with that.

At this point can you look at the movie in the eye and say, “You’re bad because you put me to sleep“? Is it allowed? Can I admit defeat? Can I just say that I’m not going to go down this road again? Unless of course maybe I end up with a strict case of insomnia and find myself desperate.

The weirdest part of it all is that I only come into this conundrum because of blogging. I find it amazingly helpful a lot of the time to put these self-set deadlines on myself. I try to post new reviews on Sunday/Monday, podcasts on Tuesday and so on so forth. It helps push myself to produce. Sometimes it even helps to get me through movies and TV shows I wouldn’t normally watch and in the long run finds me discovering more and more avenues of film culture that I will hopefully enjoy and bring something new and wonderful into my life. So why do I feel so guilty?

What do you do when this road block hits you?

‘The Incredibles 2′ Syndrome; or Can We Please Stop Pushing Filmmakers Into a Corner

brad-bird-imageAs I sit at my laptop, uncertain of what I want to write about, I find myself browsing through my feed of movie sites I follow and read only to see another post related to the internet’s desire for a sequel to The Incredibles where Brad Bird himself is quoted claiming that he’s been thinking about it. Which is the beginning of a thought that’s more than enough for the blogosphere to go on a ranting rampage of why we haven’t gotten this film yet, how much we want it and such and another.

I love The Incredibles. I actually used to own in it on DVD, until my cousin (then three-years-old) raided my movie collection for any and all Disney things and I happily contributed it to her cinematic upbringing. I had — and still have — every intention of reacquiring it, on blu ray of course, but somehow haven’t quite found the day of the week where my mouse clicked ‘add to cart’ on Amazon just yet. However, this post is not about me crying that I don’t have it anymore or that I really like the movie; this post is about the idea of sequelling and this constant need for more and more canon to exist of these things we love.

With it now being two weeks into summer and the world and a half having seen Iron Man 3 for the fifth time each (it seems like it based on the numbers). I wonder why it is that audiences are always so fascinated with the idea of more of these set of characters that (hopefully) they just finished watching complete a full arc not a couple years ago. Now they have to check back in to find out that they’re still messed up with more issues to get over.

I guess more than the idea of serialization of cinema it’s the trapping of filmmakers that’s on my mind. Today when people utter the name Batman they immediately think of Christopher Nolan. With the final of his trilogy of Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, having been released last year you can only imagine that within the next two or so years Warner Bros is going to look to somehow continue the legacy of that series and audiences are going to be walking in with a loaded gun called “not as good as Nolan” before a frame is even shown. Which leans us towards the discussion of people starting to BEG for Nolan to come back just so we can recapture that moment where we all smiled because it was good. This notion of trapping a storyteller into a box of a franchise bothers me.

Which is why the notion of Brad Bird talking about The Incredibles 2 bothers me. Not that he should never be allowed to reach into that bag ever again, but maybe it’s that I always find NEW so much more interesting than continuations. If he’s just continuing something previous then all my brain can imagine seeing is that very thing, a continuation as opposed to a reinvention that’ll make me feel just as gleeful as when I first saw The Incredibles and didn’t know what to expect. I had only an idea of what it could be and when I was shown what it was it wowed me so much that I couldn’t believe it. Doing a part two allows for less of my imagination in attempting to create the idea of what it could be so much less as I already know the template now.

This is quite possibly me rambling on for no reason whatsover, because more than likely this is just an off comment Bird is making in the five millionth interview he’s done where some journalist is pretty much forced by his/her editor to ask about the film. But it’s a thought none-the-less.

What’re your thoughts on this?