Is Money What’s Wrong With Movies?

The Lone Ranger - 2

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?

The Pantheon #3: Do The Right Thing (1989)

“My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?”

When I created the Pantheon I expected to be able to have my own personal list of films that I deserve a certain level of notoriety, sometimes those films have already gained the appropriate level among the film loving community and this may be the case with this entry.

Do the Right Thing is Spike Lee’s Fifth feature length film and to date remains my favourite of his. It has all the trappings and very few of the faults that come embedded in what is known as a Spike Lee Joint.

Spike Lee is a filmmaker that has rarely ever found his camera to be far away from the African-American community. Most times he finds ways that most filmmakers can’t to portray his community in its purest sense. Rather than spend a whole two-hour runtime blaming it all “on the white man”, while that line may be thrown around in dialogue on occasion in his films, he manages to keep his films focused on his own community as a modular subsection of the real world.

Do the Right Thing is one of the few pure African-American communities which also tries to admit the melting pot that is Brooklyn, New York. Also, unlike a lot of films like this, it shares the blame and credit of the source of the constant butting of heads between every character, including between races. We see where Radio Raheem is wrong going into Sal’s with his radio turned up, but we also see where Sal is wrong for how handles things. We also see where Mookie and Buggin Out are in the wrong and the right from scene to scene.

The film at its core tells us about how people at the end of the day have to deal with each other’s prejudices as well convictions. As we from time to time hear from the Love Doctor asking us all to “Chill” and take a moment before we make any rash decisions.

What makes Do The Right Thing a film worthy of Pantheon status for me is that it’s the best representation of what a Spike Lee movie is (in all the good ways). From its style, presentation as well as the films amazingly wide color palate. I love how the film never feels too much when it decides to side track from what may be considered an interesting plot happening currently with one character to have us move to a completely other moment occurring elsewhere in the community and have a character (or group of characters) just sit there and talk to us for an extended period so as a way to have Lee comment on his community and what’s right and/or wrong about the world and more specifically the African-American community.

The only problem with the aforementioned lack of restraint in commentary from Lee is that at times it comes out of literally nowhere. However, due to how brilliant the writing can be by the time we recognize how unrelated this dialogue may be to anything the movie is trying to say we end up enthralled by the rhythm of it and just enjoy the moment. One such moment, which I actually thing ends up coming back full circle when you’re done watching the film, is the scene where Radio Raheem is showing off his Love and Hate jewelry to Mookie.

“Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.” – Radio Raheem

It’s a brilliant scene that out of context is still remarkable, in context of the previous scene and the scene that follows it barely makes sense why it’s there at all, but after watching the film and seeing where we’re taken after two hours it is pretty much the scene that explains what the movie is really about. Looking at the final scene where Mookie is talking with Sal and so much emotion is poured out and eventually they just get around to “what’re you gonna do today?” almost as if nothing happened is just brilliant.

What’re Your Thoughts on Do The Right Thing?

The Unnamed Movie Podcast feat. Dave from ScreenGeeks [Episode 08 – Spike Lee & Miracle at St. Anna]

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Here Andrew, Damion & Douglas return to discuss the debacle that is Spike Lee’ s WWII epic with Dave from Screengeeks Radio [Screengeeks.com].  We also discuss things like Stephen Spielberg and Uwe Boll having trouble financing their movies, along with other thing that happened this week in the world of film.

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The Unnamed Movie Podcast [Episode 4 – Half the show reviews Twice the movie]

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In this episode where Andrew & Douglas are left to fend for themselves they discuss David Fincher’s full catalogue of work, as well as review two new DVD releases City of Ember & Repo! – The Genetic Opera.

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My Top Ten Directors [Part One]

Now I know this won’t be as controversial as if I had titled it “The Top Ten Directors of All Time”, because this way I’m able to defend my selection by simply stating preference rather than trying to stand behind some artistic values. And especially for those readers out there who know me will automatically know who my number one is and won’t try to argue with me, because we have already had this argument before and know exactly where it ends… it ends at the lonely dead end of personal preference. And I guess I’m writing this one more for those readers who don’t know me, and since I never really made a proper introduction when I started this site it will give you an idea of my theatrical taste rather than having to read through a dozen movie reviews and seeing if your preference and mine coincide.

So here we go…

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