Now I do enjoy the entertainment arts, Music, FIlms and Television, however the quality in the last few years has been diminishing faster than Mel Gibson’s popularity.
The problem as I see it is that studios are unwilling to take a chance on something that won’t appeal to a very large audiance. Hence good films with a specific demographic don’t get made or, if they do get taken up its unlikely to have the funding to acctually give it the attention it deserves by the general public.
I’m going to use probably the most successful cult low-budget film ever here…Clerks. Which to the working youth was an absolute gem. And spread for a large part by word of mouth. To those unfamiliar let me fill you in. Kevin Smith (Writer, Directer, Producer and Actor for Clerks) financed Clerks on 10 credit cards which he took to the limit on 8 to produce this film and his risk paid off and he is now very successful. Had he acctually produced this script at a large film company he would have been laughed out the door. So he produced in for a little under $30k and Miramax distributed it. Since then it has made over $3 million. It is a success out and out. I wonder how many other films are made that have a quality but are more of a cult film that have been missed by people. Kevin Smith has gone on to make a series of films, Mallrats, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back all of which are in a similer vein to Clerks. He has also proved to be a good dramatic cinematographer (Chasing Amy and Jersey Girl are both testament to this)
On the other side of the coin there are a lot of quality films that got made but then the “Please Everyone” Disease has gone in further films. To name a few;
The Matrix: Film 1 was absolutely genius, 2 & 3 were drek. There were so many problems in production that it should have been left. Its entirely a movie where you wait for the hyped action scenes but nothing else keeps you watching
The Starwars Trilogies; 1st Trilogy (Non Special Edition)- Arguably the best 3 films ever made. Then Franchise-aside Lucas decided to “finish them off” So Greedo shoots first to make Solo look better (BULLSHIT) and then you get to the end of Return and Hayden -Manakin- Christianson is standing there CG’d over the old guy, to somehow tie in the BS Trilogy. The “Lets-make-it-appeal-to-people-who-only-play-Wipeout-games” Movie, The “Ooooh look I’m a rebel” movie and then final “I kill because I love” Movie. Those films have missed me off more than anything. To all sci-fi producers out there SFX is that extra.. you need a good story and you need it to be enthrauling.
Indiana Jones; 4th…Aliens…need I say more
Right sorry I rant easily.
The essential thing that seems to be missed is that nothing that can be considered art will ever be universally liked, so target the people who will like it.
FightClub I think is an example of a great film. There is nothing compelling about the protaganist, but its a good film, you get drawn in then you get to the end an want to see it again. Lock, Stock and 2 smoking barrels, no heros but its still great to watch. None of these films would be made by mainstream film houses but they have all become cult hits.
I went with my Wife to see Mamma Mia this week. Now this is one that has been made simply to produce DVD sales from people who enjoy musicals. Now the story isn’t amazingly strong and the end is a bit of a smooshy ending. However the film itself is good. It progresses well and is perfectly aimed for its target and anyone who isn’t into RomComs and Musicals will find nothing to interest them. Overall I would consider it a good film.
The other problem that I think films are facing is the expectation of every film to be absolutly epic and groundbreaking. But well now that don’t work now does it?…If everything is amazing then amazing becomes ordinary. And the previously Superstars who sell films are mediocre stars now but will be hired for a film based on who they are beyond how well they act. Into TV for a moment, I find Dr Who distracting with Catherine Tate in it. The problem is that she is playing exagerated facets of herself in her show so when she’s not acting very hard (i.e. In Dr Who) you expect her to start with her “Am I bovver’d?” schtick and it is rather off putting and breaks the immersion.
Conversely, Torchwood has 5 relative unknowns and John Barrowman who is playing a role similer to his normal persona and is such quite immersive and compelling and doesn’t break the illusion of the show.
This is where Holywood and to a lesser extent TV Casting Directors need to learn. But it has a risk of going the other way if such a mentality is adopted of only hiring unknown actors. Actors should be hired on the merit of whether or not they are the best candidate for the role and with few exceptions that alone. This is where Tim Burton deserves respect, now I know a lot of people accuse him of always casting Depp and there is a level of truth in that however, Depp has to audition for every role in Burton films and is commonly the right person for the role. Whether this is due to selective writing or direction by Burton is unknown to me but is probably slightly true. however it is still the case that Depp is exceptionally versitile and performs well in most roles.
In essence the main problem Holywood is facing, is one that it has created itself in many respects. They are scared of offending anyone, of not pleasing everyone and most of all not making money. All of these things are enemies of artistic endevour. Artists create because it is in their soul to create if it displeases some then they have done their job as noone agrees on everything. There are certain things that more people agree on, i.e. Racism is not exactly conducive to a peaceful society, but there are those that would disagree with this statement. An artists goal should also never be money, money is a bi-product of artistic endevour. If you create something of outstanding artistic merit then people will be willing to hand out huge sums for this, but if you create something with the goal of it selling to a mass market then you will create something of at best reasonable merit. But these things should not be the goal.
Unfortunately the people with the money and power to do these are too damned scared to actually do any of this because if they can get a 101% return of a movie they would consider it a successful movie. But its nothing that will be acclaimed, nothing that will acctually have been worth making.