Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well the Hell's wrong with movies lately??

Ok, so I was out last Friday in Toronto and considering what movies to go out and watch with my friends. The first consideration was The Da Vinci Code, but hopefully word got around to you that it's not so good. Personally, being a movie snob and all, I've never much taken to adaptations, other than Charlie Kaufman's wicked adapted screenplay, Adaptation, which really isn't an adaptation after all.

So what were the other choices? The only other movies people wanted to see were Poseidon, Mission: Impossible III, and Silent Hill. A (probably sub-par) remake of a sub-par action flick, a sequel, and a videogame spinoff. Where's the originality, people?

I know I've totally been geeking out about Cars lately, but I think what really stands out with Pixar is that they make -original- stories that are engaging and really solid overall. Not even Disney in their heyday made original stories - even their most original stuff like Lilo and Stitch has it's basis in the Ugly Duckling. Maybe it's just that Pixar's sources are less clear than Kimba the White Lion and the Lion King. I think this is why I like so much of Studio Ghibli's library (but I frown towards them edging towards more and more literary adaptations as story sources), as well as Aardman's.

Eventually, I didn't go to see anything, because there wasn't anything worth watching. And the MPAA wonders why people steal movies and viewership is at an all time low? So what do I have to look forward to this weekend to make up for it? The New Xmen movie. Ugh.


Skye 7:54 PM  

Hey Alan,

Not to play the Devil's advocate here, but considering you haven't seen any of these movies, doesn't it seem a little unfair to dismiss it as crap? Seems a little closed-minded for an open-minded critical fella like you, doesn't it? ;)

It sounds an awful lot like the kind of debates I'm used to hearing:

"Oh this movie is bad."

"Why is it bad?"

"Well, it had a bad story."

"Why was it bad?"

"Too many explosions."

"What would you do to make it better?"

"Well, uh...I, uh...it's just bad, OK?"


Cookedart 8:17 PM  

This may be true, however, working at a video store I've seen just about every single new release movie in the past two years. And I remember patterns - and people, and namely, directors. In Poseidon's case, I know exactly what type of movie coming from the man who made Troy, the Perfect Storm, and Air Force One.

I actually did go to see Mission Impossible III, and was dissapointed by J.J. Abrams, the creator of Alias. I expected more out of him. That seems nowadays more often than not to happen (directors that I liked not performing up to snuff). The one example that comes to mind is Terry Gilliam and the Brothers Grimm. I like almost every other movie from Mr. Gilliam.

Cristophe Gans, director of Silent Hill, helmed Brotherhood of the Wolf, an ok film but I'm not going to rush to see a follow-up.

My main point was the lack of originality in story. What's with the lack of original inspiration in summer movies lately?

Skye 11:03 PM  

As far as the recent offerings in cinemas lately being unoriginal rehash, I can't say I disagree. ;)

At the same time, though, a lot of people "expecting more" tend to judge movies on criterion that they're not. There's a big difference between an action whammo-blammo movie that tries to have substance that doesn't, and an action whammo-blammo movie that just tries to be a fun popcorn movie.

I think the key to identifying whether a movie is good or not is basically asking whether the movie achieves what it's trying to do. I find a lot of people go to movies and expect things that the movie isn't trying to be.

I mean, you wouldn't go to see Schindler's List and criticize it as being bad for being "too sad". Yet a lot of people go to movies like MI:III (not neccessarily is you) or Spider-Man wanting (if not expecting) War and Peace with tons of depth, and wind up feeling cheated walking out of the theatre because they expected the movie to be more than it is.

I guess what it comes down to is this: would you rather see a well executed, fresh take on something that might be a little derivative but is solid, satisfying entertainment, or something original but bad? Ideally, a movie should have both. But, if you had to choose between the two, I think a solid well told picture with heart and a good story is preferable vs. an original but crappy movie.

Does it have heart and the story told in a convincing way? Does it compel you? If it's supposed to be a dramatic epic and it does this, great. But if it's supposed to be a dramatic epic and it falls flat on the emotional radar, I would probably consider that a failure.

I would definitely agree originality is something that we could use a lot more of. But, at least we always have Pixar and Tim Burton to spurt out a gem every couple of years.

Lettie Lo 12:46 AM  

o__O u work in a video storre?? u mean blockbuster down stairs from the rabbas apartments?

Cookedart 12:52 AM  

Ooh, a discussion, eh?

Well here's how I see it - what I'm majorly taking aim at is the fact that movie houses are more often coming out with what they believe are surefire successes because they have been in the past, read: Re-releasing in a slightly different form what made them money before. By doing this,though, more often then not are losing the tenacity that the original possessed. I mean, it's almost cliché now that the modern sequel sucks.

It's easier for gatekeepers, as Mark Mayerson called them, to approve of something because there's a fanbase. Whether it be something in a completely different medium, as long as they're guaranteed a margin of success, it's greenlighted. Why this bothers me is that there is a great potential with the filmmaking medium to create original stories, especially with the technology that is readily available for anyone to create anything that he or she wants to. But what is actually getting released is more of the same.

As for judging a film according to its genre, of course that's logical, but a big problem with movies of late is that they can't even be judged well compared with movies corresponding to the their targets. The action flick, for instance, was always supposed o be fun and mindless, but many of the action flicks that I've seen lately lack the original flair to seperate them from what has already been done, or even fail to match what has been released prior.

I don't think one needs to either accept an unoriginal idea that is well executed or an original idea that's a bad movie - I really don't think it's clear cut like that. What I do believe, though, is that creative energy is at somewhat of a standstill in the type of movie that is going to be most consumed by the public - that is, the summer blockbuster. What is expected to be the biggest movie of the summer? Pirates of the Caribbean, likely, which is not only a sequel, it's a sequel based on a movie that was based upon an amusement ride. Yes, it was well executed, and yes it was fun, but I don't think it holds enough creative spark to spur two sequels, and what I think made the original so succesful was what it had in terms of originality. Possibly next is Superman, which is, of course, yet another screen adaptation of a comic book. I have every faith in Brian Singer as a director, but I'm kinda growing tired of every single comic book hero having a movie. If every literary masterpiece and comic book hero gets made will the movie industry be over? It certainly seems like it at the rate they're going. This is why I'm so happy to see a movie with a completely original screenplay that kicks ass - It's something that I've never seen before at all, in any form, and feels more personal, feels like there's more of a connection made. Watch any of Wes Anderson's movies and you can feel the sense of hope and redemption, as Piotr Bielicki put it, in these films. The main inspiration, as Wes Anderson says, is his own life and that of his friend's, Owen Wilson. By making it truly personal it makes a connection to anyone, I believe. Then on the opposite side of the spectrum you have Akiva Goldsman trying to shorten the length of the film to the target 2 hours and what critics seem convinced to have lost the lustre that made the original novel interesting. Personally whenever I see an adaptation like this I can't help but feel like picking up the book at my local library and having a good read rather than watch another "interpreted" version of the book on the silver screen. I find there's just that lack of personal connection that needs to be in any story - It feels like Akiva Goldsman saw that there was money to be made and came up with something that would be functional, and it was full steam ahead. Grab a big name actor, shoot the film, send it off to the theatres with a good ad campaign. There's no time or money in the business of feelings or emotion.

A big problem I had with "Over the Hedge" was the fact that you could predict everything that happened in the movie once the setup was revealed - it was still a well executed movie by every means, but it ventured nowhere original to show me something unexpected. And by all means, that seems to be ok with the viewers of North America.

I think we're essentially talking about the same thing here which is that it doesn't matter what type of movie it is, or what your expectations are around the movie, but whether it is compelling and convincing. But quite frankly, I haven't been convinced by movies released this summer so far, and from the looks of it, I'm not convinced that the movies to come are going to be much better.

I've been proven wrong in the past by a bad movie turning out good, but I just feel that I'm underwhelmed by the big movies planned for the summer. Can you think of a movie this summer that is completely original that you're excited about at all? I can't, save Cars.

My two (possibly three?) cents.

P.S. Lettie - no, I work at Highlander's DVD - Near wal-mart.

Skye 1:20 AM  

This is true.

But I guess that means it's up to us to find ways to convince the gatekeepers that projects that deserve a chance should both get the option for a greenlight and the proper marketing. And I guess that's the trick, but if done right we could wind up striking paydirt. At least we're in the right field, and it wouldn't be the first time a Sheridan grad became a gatekeeper or at least an artist with a high degree of influence.

Me likes discussions :)

While we're on the topic of shameless commercialism, when are you gonna add me to your links list, Alan? :D (skycron.com, whisper whisper...)

Seo Kim 7:09 PM  

I am super super psyched about Cars. i've watched the trailers wayyy too many times! Pixar definitely prevails almost every time over Dreamworks and all the rest and this is because of their fantastic storytelling and relatable characters. Gotta disagree about it being better than old school Disney though... I am passionate about many of the classic 2d films and I haven't really "fallen in love" with any 3d animated movie, at least not in the same way as the old ones. I think what especially appeals to me about Cars is that it has so much SPIRIT... something I think recent animated films have been lacking.

Cars is going to make "Over the Hedge" look like a big joke.. which is really all it is anyway. (didn't enjoy it much)

Andre Barnwell 7:11 PM  

Alan Cook ...good to see you keepin us bloggin students all updated with your interesting discoveries and talks. Honestly it is refreshin to see someone using the blog for more than a temp web site but a journal...and yours is quite an emerging one, since I can look at what you post up and think for a minute. Feelin it. especially the link for Coraline...You provide us with a means of resource and a hint of eye candy. Respect!

Eduardo Avenir II 9:47 PM  

as a big xmen fan i seriously hope its not a disappointing sequal >_> but most likely it will be. ah i'm glad you pointed out the kimba the white lion comparison w/ the lion king. Its crazy how few people in animation i've talked to actually know about that.

Cookedart 1:31 AM  

Wow, comments galore!

Cory - shameless indeed! You should be... ashamed!

Madamegaston - Awesome that someone your age is as into animation as us 'geezers' in animation. Keep drawing! I absolutely agree that the Disney movies totally have tons of heart in them. But I also grew up with them - I don't think I could look at them any other way. If I was a child watching Snow White for the first time and Finding Nemo, I'd probably think Snow White was a little jaded and cliché, probably -because- of Disney itself. Maybe not, but we'll never know, will we?

Hey Andre - keep up your feverish pace with bloggin' too. Good to see everyone getting into this thing even bigger in the summer! Excited about Chuck?

Ed - How are the prints coming? I totally don't expect the Xmen movie to be good, mainly because Brett Ratner is directing it, and Gambit's not in it. I like Bryan Singer so much more. And Gambit.

As for Kimba the White Lion - I bet there's a whole bunch more stuff out there like that that we may not even be aware of. I find I don't even much -like- the Lion King as much as I used to. Beauty and the Beast still works for me though.

Skye 9:50 AM  

Maybe, but still I see no link. Haha :P

Eduardo Avenir II 9:32 PM  

hey. as i write this, the 2nd day of anime north has just ended and its been fun so far. Made a fair amount of money, not as much as last year yet but there's still one more day. And I'll be posting up the pictures on my msn space as soon as the convention is over. A lot of sheridan people swamping artist alley XD

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