Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Blog: Movie/TV Thoughts

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:35 AM

I Don't Want to Hear It Any More

"Oh man…Holllywood. It's just the same old crap. Nothing original. Nothing new."

I'm sure you've heard that sentiment plenty of times. Especially the past ten years or so since everyone with a computer suddenly feels the need to voice their views. It's true, you know. I mean, Hollywood does dish out a lot of junk. From remakes to reboots, unnecessary sequels and just schlock that pander to the lowest commong denominator that studios, somehow, are able to get actually talented people to waste their talents on (see: Battleship). Though it's readily apparent that it's the marketing departments of these studios that really run things, once in a while they take a risk. They do something different. They do something extraordinary. They heed your calls and throw out a movie that goes against the grain and has you eating crow.

But then nobody fucking bothers to see it.

You know, it's only until things are bad do people say that Hollywood just dishes "crap" out there. When things are good, nobody says anything. When things are bad, they complain.

That is until things are bad and yet they go anyway. Hello Twilight, how are you today? Still making bank, I bet.

But this isn't about that. Despite that it's a road with many different paths and directions happening and painting some picture to simplify it is utterly stupid, I'm going to concentrate on one:

Audiences are stupid.

Yes, you. Johnny and Jane ticket-buyer. What did you see this past weekend? Did you see anything? Nothing looked good to you?

Oh, you know. That one movie. What was it?

Yes, Cloud Atlas. You know the antithesis film of everything you bitch and moan about and that nobody bothered to see this weekend.

Nobody going is the same as saying "we don't want this." Whether you like the film or not, the fact nobody went is a clear message.

Well, folks. There's your answer. The same answer that cropped up when other highly marketed and risky movies flopped and, yet, people still bitch that there's nothing new and exciting at the movies as they stand in line for the next Marvel superhero movie they've already seen five times.

Hey, remember Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Highly promoted. Well made. Big original and new movie for your enjoyment. Nobody went to see that either.

In the case of Cloud Atlas, it's even worse. Cloud Atlas was a group of independent filmmakers and producers busting their asses for years to independently finance a film and negotiate with studios for distribution to avoid studio involvement. Unheard of on this scale. What was the result to this completely out-of-the-system big-budget heavily-marketed non-conformist original thing?

Nine million at the box office.

There's your answer why there's a bunch of crap out there right there. Nobody bothers to see "fresh" and "new"…so why should filmmakers bother to take the risk to do it?  Stop pointing fingers and look to the audience at hand. They don't want daring. They want safe. YOU may want daring and original, something fresh, but you're in the minority, my friend, and truth is if you're really want that there's a slew of great indie movies every single year that you probably aren't even bothering to go out and see. And if you are aware of them and can't see them, you're at least aware of them, aren't you? Did you see Beasts of the Southern Wild?

When you realize that filmmakers, when they try, seem to have their asses handed to them as people don't go and see those risks they take and realize that the majority audience that goes to the movies are stupid and want safe and dumb, then maybe you'll be like me and maybe cut out the constant criticism of there never being anything "new" and "original" out there. This is a nation that gave Michael Bay a career after all, if nobody bothered to give him millions, then that would send a message. But they constantly do, so let's cut those greenlighting movies some slack. Even Hollywood films made outside the Hollywood system.Yes, there's another Alvin and the Chimpmunks movie coming out, but that's because everybody went to go see the other ones. If that's what people want, then that's what they're going to get.

Besides, 2012 has had a huge share of good original films if you ask me. Cherry-picking stuff by me or by you to prove some kind of point probably isn't the best way to go about it. I suppose, in reality, both I and you and everyone we know probably make things far worse and far better than they actually are. Hey, people gave Looper a nice amount of cash, and Argo and Moonrise Kingdom did extremely well for non-blockbuster summer flicks. Maybe, at the end of the day, we just need to stop whining and bitching as a whole.

So ponder that for a minute while I crack my knuckles for the next

South Park is On A Roll

Have you been watching South Park lately? I know some have become rather disassociated with it, especially after last season (which was actually the first part of this season) which I felt was overall very weak, but they have been nailing in this season so far. From our societal standards of what is and isn't entertainment to insecurity to the overuse of sarcasm in the world. But last week's A Nightmare on Face Time was brilliant on every level, from poking fun at Apple's iPad users, to the brilliant use of The Shining as a framing device to the best commentary you could ask for about how we watch movies.

In this episode, Stan's dad Randy buys himself a Blockbuster store. He insists that it's still popular, that people will come because it's Halloween and they want scary movies, but the lack of customers eventually drives him insane (hence the Shining as he stalks the store after his wife and children). The show pretty much says stores are dead, but also things like Redbox and other kiosks are also on their way out as thieves break one open to find no money. Everything is online. Everything is streaming. Well, not "everything" but this episode of South Park works more as a prophecy in that regard.

I loved going to video stores. I have a massively huge DVD/blue Ray collection. But I'll say this: if everything becomes easy and convenient to see at the click of a button (such as Hulu's Criterion Collection, which has pretty much made me not buy a Criterion DVD in a long long while), then I'm more than happy to give it all up. As much as I liked walking the aisles, looking up random VHS and DVDs in the past, those days are over (as I discuss here only regarding video games). The world has changed, the way we see movies has changed, and those that keep holding on to the past and not realize that there's new and better ways to see the films you love you'll literally be left out in the cold.

Damn, That's a Lot of Hammer

As you probably know, I reviewed three Hammer movies last week in honor of Terence Fisher, who I did a Tribute for. They were the first two color Hammer horror movies, Curse of Dracula and Horror of Frankenstein, and a later Hammer flick by Fisher called The Devil Rides Out (which is also called The Devil's Bride in some cases, which sounds weird as I don't recall a marriage in it, but whatever). Even though I only reviewed those three, I went on a huge Hammer Horror marathon the past few weeks, more for Halloween in general. I watched all of Fisher's and a handful of non-Fisher movies.

Favorite Fishers: Horror of Dracula, The Hound of Baskervilles, The Gorgon, Dracula Prince of Darkness and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. (least favorites probably The Mummy and Th Phantom of the Opera, in case you were wondering).

But those non-Fisher films were pretty damn good as well. The Evil of Frankenstein was absolutely fantastic. Cushing is at the top of his game, and director Freddie Francis just nailed the atmosphere. It's been noted how there are similarities, especially Creature-wise, to the Universal/Karloff classic, and it's pretty obvious. But Cushing is just so damn good.

A really unheralded one, and right int he middle of Hammer Horror's heigh, was Fantatic! I had no idea before watching it that it was written by Richard Matheson.  I was just happy it had Donald Sutherland. But Matheson really wrote a hell of a script here. Similarly he wrote the script for The Devil Rides Out years later, a Fisher movie, but this one feels far more polished I thought. It's not really in the usual "horror" sense of the word, but very much a quality low-budget thriller.

Last here that I'll mention is the very odd film Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, which came at the tail-end of Hammer's long running horror proficiency. There's a lot going on in this thing, not just a re-interpreation of the Stevenson classic but there's also a plot about Jack the Ripper and Burke and Hare. It's a very sexually-charged flick (hey, it was the 70s, baby!) but it plays out almost like a video game plot as Jekyll has to kill women to cultivate their hormones, kind of like how you collect red orbs in Devil May Cry I guess. Anyways, it's an incredibly original film from the Horror camp.

Also, did you know that movie was directed by the same director of A Night to Remember, one of the more heralded British films in history (and one of the first to depict the sinking of the Titanic? Yeah, weird.

And, oh, let's Just Throw This Out There:

Breaking Bad is the Best Television Show In History

You know, I debated it. I have a lot of personal favorite shows. Hell, from an entertainment standpoint there are certainly shows I prefer (oh hi Doctor Who!) But from a quality/plished/writing/directing standpoint, I don't know if there's anything show that, from week to week, maintains itself as well as Breaking Bad has. It's a focused, taught show that never feels like it's wasting a minute. Everything has a purpose, everything has a place. There are things that are relevant in season one that are just as relevant in season four.

It's, basically, a really long, long movie. That's how connected and inner-connected it all feels and how the scripts play out. It never has that "lull" that some shows go through.

Let me put it this way. Think of your favorite shows. Preferably drama as comedies are hard to nail down. A Star Trek? X-Files? Mad Men? Something more than just one or two seasons. Now, think of your favorite seasons of that show.

Now stop. Did you just think of your favorite seasons?

Well, in Breaking Bad you can't do that. That's how they constantly run in to each other. re-watching the series as a whole for the third time (yes third time, the entire thing) I've become more and more aware of how polished of a show it is, but also how purposeful of a show it is. If I could cut out the bad seasons of a Lost or Boardwalk Empire or Walking Dead (the latter two having horrible second seasons) then it might be a good comparison, but it's hard to.

The only other show that I can think of that had that week-to-week consistency, where you can't really pick a season because it all weaves together, was the Sopranos (though it's last season was a bit of a disappointment). Maybe Mad Men, though it had a sluggish fourth season happening in it.

But let me also note this: it's not just the consistent quality here, but also how the show handles itself. It's a violent show, a dramatic show, but it also has a major dose of dark humor and is an incredibly character story of how a man can fall victim to his own ambitions (the central plot of, say, a Scarface, only here our man starts good and slowly descends into madness over the course of five seasons). After the third time watching this series, those subtle nods early on to what I know would eventually evolve into major plot lines or character arcs made made me appreciate this show even more.

Television is as good as it's ever been right now. Shows across the board are fantastic in terms of drama, and the since 2000 we have seen, quite easily, shows that rival anything put out in theaters.

Do I like other shows more? Probably. But I don't know if there's a better made show out there. Possibly in the history of television. There's never a season or even episode that I didn't find myself looking forward to watching, and even on my favorite shows I can't say that.

And Now to Another Biggest Thing Ever

Disney Buys LucasFilm

The jury is still out on this. I think it'd be great to continue Star Wars well past the "saga' as it has been done in various books, comics, games and so on, but is Disney the one to really put it on the right track? I suppose it comes down to personnel (as in, less Disney Animation mishandled tomfoolery and more Marvel "just go do your own thing" brilliance). If you have a the right people running the thing, and right now that is Kathleen Kennedy so no complaints so far (gee, she only been nominated 7 times for a Best Picture Oscar on her produced films) you'll going to end up with greatness. If not, then you might as well sweep it under the rug like Disney does with the bad Bruckheimer movies they greenlight.

Here's the thing, fans: you're getting what you want. You wanted Star Wars out of the hands of George Lucas (who I'm sure is going to, at the very least, be in the writers room and exec produce the thing, which is what he's always been best at). So you really shouldn't be complaining about anything. Lucas is put in the place that he thrives in, which is being a producer over a filmmaker, and the execution of that creativity is put in the hands of those that can put a hold on it, such as what directors and writers did for the Indiana Jones films and Episodes V and VI.

Personally, I always felt Lucas got a raw deal by fans. The Star Wars fanbase is a fanbase that is impossible to fully satisfy, the dreams of Star Wars in their heads will never be matched by what anyone creates.  It's just that Lucas was a bit of dick in the process which didn't help matters. The guy has a huge amount of creativity happening, but he's also got a huge ego and isn't the best at expressing that creativity, which is why the best films he's produced are the ones he didn't write or direct (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back for example). As he is quoted, he's wanting to see what a new generation can bring to Star Wars and wants it to live beyond him...and that's pretty damn big of the guy whether you like him or not.

Then again, nerd rage is always ridiculous, and the internet, the platform for everyone to feel self-righteous, just gives them a louder voice that makes them think what they have to say means anything. It doesn't. It flies by like pop music until the next thing to bitch about crops up.

Let me take you back to 2009 for a moment. Oh, how quickly we forget. In 2009 people insisted, yes insisted, that Disney buying Marvel would ruin everything and the world would come to an end and cats and dogs would live together. Mass hysteria! Well, those critics are now looked at as fools! Fools I tell you! The sad thing is, nobody really remembers it all that well. It kind of just got blown over as Marvel released more and more great movies now that they had Disney backing them. But people at the time cried out. I suppose they needed something new to cry over seeing as how Heath Ledger proved all those critics wrong the year before. (Yeah, nobody ever remembers that either, which is why whiny folks on the internet are the last thing I really take seriously...then again I'm writing a blog about it so I'm being a good ole hypocrite)

There's reason to be skeptical, though. Disney is a big corporation, they are really putting a lot under their banner. Sometimes, too much under one roof stifles creativity, no matter how many lessons they've learned or how good they have some (not all) things under their banner going.  But I think they know what they have here, and if they do it smart ala a Pixar or Marvel, you might have an awesome, re-invigorated Lucasfilm division - something Star Wars fans have been clamoring about for years. Star Wars is the biggest cultural item of quite a few generations. Nothing, save for maybe Nintendo, Coke and Disney itself, comes close in terms of what it's spawned. So, lets see where this takes us, but I'm excited.

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