Well, it is done. A little more than one week ago, Terry II became my 100 subscriber. Which is frankly more than I ever expected out of this blog. After all, my articles are rarely funny, and the very theme of the blog might turn away some people. And I won’t lie, it is sometimes depressing to see that barely anyone showed interest in a particular post. It usually happens whenever I start to tackle something really obscure, so I guess it is more the topic than my writing. In any case, my gratitude to all of you. Those who have been there from the beginning (like Animation Commendation, who was my very first follower) and those who have just discovered my blog. Those who comment regularly and those who just like my work.
Last time I also offered to do a little Q&A to honour the occasion. Nobody asked me any question in advance, so there is that. I am not sure if the offer was too well hidden, badly worded or if there is simply a lack of interest. But I have a post to fill, therefore I decided to drop some opinions on some movie related controversies which have kept the Internet busy this year.
Well, not really a controversy. The critics loved this movie and it was therefore not really much of a surprise that it won the academy award. The controversy claim comes in, because supposedly the movie is a big “Take That” towards the superhero craze. When I was watching the movie this assessment puzzled me a little bit. Because to me it felt more like a “Take That” towards crazy actors who prance around in egoistic self-importance, critics who fall for every gimmick on earth and the theatre and movie business in general. I needed to take a big step back to realize that the movie actually doesn’t really have any message at all. It is set up in a way that it confirms whatever opinion the audience formed beforehand. I have a little bit behind the stage experience (btw, I think that the “one camera shot device” was great for the scenes during the stage play, because it underlined the urgency and chaos which usually goes on behind the scenes, but they kind of ruined it by using it for the whole movie), and I was immediately reminded of the “sensible personalities” I met during that time.
At the end of the day, I have a pretty low opinion of “Birdman”. It is a movie which pretends to have some deep message, but in reality, it has nothing to say but instead feeds into the ego of the watcher. At best it is exactly what it somewhat rages against, a pretentious piece of garbage which fools the critics into believing that there is something more to a plot, which was so predictable that I called the ending the moment the gun turned up the first time. I give it credit though for being so clever in its pandering that I didn’t even notice what it was doing at first.
Oh, and when it comes to the Superhero craze: I don’t get what the fuss is about. There are every year more generic action movies, romances and independent movies which are made than Superhero movies. The craze will die eventually – but maybe not soon. When Spielberg says that the genre will go the way of the Western eventually, he seems to forget how long the Western was the most popular Hollywood genre. Comic books are a fairly new genre (if it even is a genre and not a specific way to tackle different genres), something which hasn’t been properly explored yet, and as it stands, there have to be at least three duds in a row to convince a studio – or the audience for that matter – that it might time to move on. Plus, while every era ends at one point, there is no genre which totally vanishes. Pirate movies were proclaimed to be a death genre for more than a decade until “Pirates of the Caribbean” came along. In addition, the big output of Superhero movies won’t start before next year. This year there were only three movies, four if you count “Kingsmen”. One of them being:
There is no denying that this movie was a bomb, critically and financially. And I can’t say that I was surprised, because nothing about this looked even remotely good, and not just because of the Josh Trank controversy. Strangely there now has been built some myth around this movie, one which claims that the sole reason for the state of “Fantastic 4” is Fox who ruined a young film maker. My only reaction to this is: Really?
There are a couple of movies which stink of studio interference. And yes, “Fantastic 4” is one of them. But to me it doesn’t look like some director had to fight a studio which ruined a good movie. It feels like a studio tried to salvage a movie which was already terrible and made it worse in the process. Due to Kate Mara’s wig it is pretty easy to gauge which parts of the movie were reshoots and which parts were there from the beginning. And both parts are really bad, just in different ways. Even if you ignore the third act and assume that the lack of a second act is the fault of the studio, it doesn’t change the fact that the pacing in this movie is terrible, the visuals are boring, the dialogues are stiff, the characters are bland and the script makes no sense even for a Comic book movie. If I had to describe the first half of the movie, I would say that it comes off like the work of a whiny teenager who complains that the world doesn’t recognize his talent. And if that’s the voice of the director (who has made exactly one movie beforehand, so there is no proper baseline for his abilities), than the movie had a problem from the get go, studio interference or not.
Not that Fox is in any way innocent in this mess. They waited until the last minute to rush this into production for the sole reason that they wanted to keep the rights, they had no vision whatsoever (if you like the Spider-man reboot or not, you can’t deny that Sony at least initially had some idea in which direction they wanted to go with it), they were not ready to commit to the movie in any way and they gave it into the hands of an inexperienced director. I hope they learned their lesson and are now reconsidering their options (please Fox, just give it back to Marvel). But let’s not forget here that Josh Trank did his part to ensure that the movie tanked at the box office, too.
3. M. Night Shyamalan
Speaking of directors who have to redeem themselves, M Night Shyamalan has on this list for a long, long time. Some people said that “The Visit” was a step in the right direction. I am not sure about that. Partly because there are so many people who want him to succeed again that they might overpraise mediocrity, partly because I don’t think that he was ever that good in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I think “The Sixth Sense” is a good movie, mostly because it is well acted and the basic idea is fairly clever. But I also think that another director might have taken the premise and made it a great or outstanding movie. I tend to judge the quality of a movie based on how often I watch it. Not in theatres, but in general. With the exception of a few movies, which are good but emotionally so draining that one watch is all I can bear, a movie is only than a true success for me if it has a high rewatch value. And I watched “The Sixth Sense” exactly twice, once unaware and once picking up all the hints I missed the first time around. But that’s it. I never had the desire to watch it again, because once I have moved past the twist, the movie had nothing left to appeal to me.
There are a couple of movies which rely on some sort of unexpected turn. “Die Hard”, “Shawshank’s Redemption”, “The Sting”, to mention a few of my favourite ones. But that’s not all those movies have to offer. Whenever I happen to come across one of them, I am always tempted to watch them again, because they also have compelling characters and witty dialogue. And when I watch them, I thoroughly enjoy how expertly they are crafted to conceal their true goal from the audience. When I watched “The Sixth Sense” again, I was mostly wondering how I could have missed all those clues.
And here lies the problem with M. Night Shyamalan’s work. The one reason why he could fool me with “The Sixth Sense” was because I didn’t expect any kind of twist. But since he uses the device in nearly every movie he makes and mostly relies on it, it hasn’t been unexpected for a long, long time and there is usually nothing else to latch on. In a way, the first half of “Signs” is better than the whole of “The Sixths Sense” because while the movie does fall apart in the end, it does a way better job in setting up an oppressive atmosphere.
In my eyes M. Night Shyamalan has talent, but it has never been properly nurtured. As a result he is stuck on this one idea, this one gimmick he plays out again and again. He peaked too early, and unless he reconsiders his approach, he will never produce anything worthwhile again.
4. Adam Sandler
And neither will Adam Sandler. Pixels seems to have become the movie which made everyone boil over. I am actually not sure why. Because the humour of Adam Sandler hasn’t really changed, ever. Personally I never liked it in the first place. I always felt that it was juvenile and sometimes mean spirited. In the whole Adam Sandler line-up is exactly one movie I like, and that is “The Wedding Singer”. Which I don’t like because I think that it is funny, but because it appeals to my sense of Nostalgia.
To cut this short, I think that Adam Sandler is a pretty good actor. And that’s exactly what he should focus on, taking some serious acting roles instead of keep telling the same joke even his fans got apparently tired of.
5. Jurassic World
Speaking of nostalgia and telling the same joke – or in this case story – again and again, Jurassic World became the surprise hit of the year. And to be honest, I don’t get it. I like “Jurassic Park” well enough, but, well, it is in principle just a monster flick with some nice visuals. There is really not much you can do with this story than repeating the same basic plot. Well, actually there is, but that would require the studios to think out of the box and take some risks. And why should they if they can make millions by serving the audience a meal which has already been spit out two time beforehand? Just add some nice visuals and the audience will swallow it.
6. Visual Gimmicks
Visuals are also the new focus in movie marketing. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to work out that well, judging by the box office numbers of “The Walk” and “Everest”. Since “Avatar” the audience has moved on. They want a little bit more from their movies. I wish I could say that this little bit more is good storytelling, but what currently seems to be the biggest box office draw is nostalgia.
Now I don’t mind compelling visuals. But they are only the icing on the cake. So don’t tell me how great it will look in I-Max (especially since I don’t even live near one), tell me what else you have to offer. Otherwise I will believe that there is nothing more to it than a gimmick.
7. All female Ghostbusters
Speaking of gimmicks: It is great that Hollywood finally realized that they can make a ton of money by appealing to the female audience. And that said audience is interested in more than rom-coms. But can we perhaps stop making a big deal around the fact that the main cast of a movie or a TV show for that matter is female? Especially since a female presence doesn’t necessarily make for good representation. And since we are talking about this topic either way, there is another thing I hate.
8. Gendered Marketing
Okay, I get the idea of appealing to a certain group of people. But I don’t get the concept that defining it over gender is a good idea. By telling the audience “this is for boys” or “this is for girls” you might alienate some potential viewers. Why not market something based on taste? “This is for people who like some good action”, “This is for people who are in love” and “This is for people who like musicals” makes way more sense to me.
A good example for this is, even though it is not directly movie related, is Lego. When I was a child, I had a number of Lego sets. Most of them were space ships, because that’s what Lego mostly sold back then. It never occurred to me that those space ships were not made for me. Until Lego introduced “Lego for girls”. In translation, the cool stuff, everything which is remotely technical is for boys, and the pink stable with the cute ponies is for girls. Yeah, thanks for nothing. You know, I also remember that the boys loved to play with horses when I was a child. In the context of cowboys and Indians, because then the horses were supposed to be manly. I for my part was never into horses at all (unless they came with Indians). I loved pirates.
In any case, Lego should sort the sets by theme, not by gender. And movies should do the same. After all, advertising should be about addressing the group of people which does like the theme of the movie, not about assuming that all females or all males like roughly the same stuff.
9. James Bond
Case to point, James Bond. Frankly, I dislike Craig in the role and I dislike the current run of movies. It is as if Sony removed everything which makes Bond, well, Bond and instead started to chase the newest trend. The result is a weird mix between Jason Borne and Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Now, I don’t begrudge the fans of the current run their fun, but I admit, I am glad that it is most likely over, soon. Hopefully next in line will be a take on Bond which goes back to the roots. If I want to see a more or less generic spy movie with a lot of action, there are a lot of other options, starting with Mission: Impossible and ending with the already mentioned Jason Borne movies. When I watch James Bond I expect to see strange gadgets, sleek cars and yes, I even enjoy the Bond girls to a certain degree. Especially if they are shown to be competent.
You know, my favourite Bond movie is still Goldfinger. Though I guess this might be a sign that I might not like Bond in general. Did anyone ever notice that Bond accomplishes next to nothing in this movie? Yeah, he figures out Goldfinger’s plan but he never manages to get the information to his people. Pussy Galore is the real heroine. And then, after taking out Oddjob, he has no idea how to deal with the bomb. His people take care of it just before he can rip out a random wire. The true heroine in all this is Pussy Galore. Which might explain why she is one of the most famous Bond girls.
10. Star Wars
And since I am on the topic of franchises, Star Wars is already breaking records. I couldn’t care less. I like the original trilogy well enough, but nothing which came out of the franchise since then has been any good, at least not in terms of movies or TV-shows. Or Christmas specials. And while I do believe that Disney will deliver something solid, I am equally sure that this will be another Jurassic World, a movie which will mostly rely on nostalgia without taking any chances. The result will please the fans, but it won’t have the cultural impact the original trilogy had.
I guess you are now wondering if I am sane. Not loving either Jurassic Park nor James Bond nor Star Wars to the point of obsession has to be some sort of unforgivable sin. But if you are still interested in my opinion, it is time to announce what is in store for the next month. I am currently working hard on the article series I intend to post on my second blog, Movies and Lyrics. But don’t worry, there will be the usual fairy tale month, too. After all, posts which are Disney related are still the most popular. And I guess I’ll have a little bit of fun and tell you what it won’t be about:
It won’t be about Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty because I covered both of them already.
It won’t be based on a Grimm Fairy Tale.
It won’t be about Beauty and the Beast because I want to see the upcoming movie first.
It won’t be a fairy tale which is popular with feminists.
And that should be enough for a safe guess. The first article will, as usually, be posted on the first Saturday in December.