There are a few lessons that Hollywood can learn from this recent glut of box office failures:
1. Above-the-line talent matters.What do Taylor Kitsch, Armie Hammer, Seth Green, Ryan Reynolds and Nicholas Hoult have in common? You wouldn’t want to watch them guest star in a basic-cable sitcom about a family of 1980s nerds whose youngest child grows up to be a cool 1950s greaser (CEO of basic cable, call me!), much less play the lead in a feature-length film intended to spawn endless sequels, prequels, reboots, preboots, remakes, premakes and make-boots. At the same time, actual stars have become so valuable that they can do whatever the hell they want, yet another reason why Johnny Depp spends much of The Lone Ranger interacting with his own hat.
2. Better dead than Red. I don’t know what it is about the Red Planet, but audiences flat-out do not want to watch movies set there. John Carter and Mars Needs Moms are the most egregious failures, but the recent Total Recall remake also flopped, and the era was littered with box-office bombs featuring Mars and Martians, including Mission to Mars, Red Planet and Mars Attacks! Hollywood, leave Mars to the Martians already!
3. Blacklist Ryan Reynolds. I’m not historically a supporter of Hollywood blacklists, but I’m prepared to work outside the box here. R.I.P.D. and Green Lantern failed miserably at the box office, and even though a few Reynolds films (The Proposal, Safe House) have been quite profitable, some dividends just aren’t worth their moral price.
4. Avoid offending everyone. Mars Needs Moms is a $150 million motion-capture feature-length by the Walt Disney Studios that depicts male Martians as dreadlocked minstrels and offers a gender-role discourse that can be summarized as “feminism destroys babies.” Disney’s John Carter merely portrays its Martians as an Avatar-esque tribal “other.” Meanwhile, the effects wizards behind The Lone Ranger spent countless man-hours trying to make Indian genocide look totally awesome. That’s dicey stuff for nine-figure budgeted movies that need to appeal to literally everyone.
5. Don’t make a $90 million version of The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker in 3D (the 2-D version was retitled The Nutcracker: The Untold Story), is easily the worst of this bunch, quite possibly the worst movie ever made, and yet it’s too deranged to be ignored. I’m not joking—I watched all 108 minutes of this film, and while I typically scoff at things like witches and ghosts and hot-air balloons, I’m 85-90 percent sure that this Nutcracker will somehow enter our dreams and attempt to murder us in our sleep if we don’t pay attention to it right now.
It’s credited as “A UK/Hungary Co-Production,” making it easily their most disastrous co-production since World War I. Nathan Lane co-stars as the creepy “uncle” (i.e., the part he was born to play), who talks straight to the camera, blabbers about Freud, sings of lost pebbles, and tells a small child, “If I seem far away … just think of me, and I’ll be close.” Good luck ever sleeping through the night again, kid!
John Turturro plays the Rat King as a machine-gun-wielding Nazi who kills a shark, sings hot jazz numbers and burns toys in front of children dressed like World War II refugees. At one point, Turturro snarls, “You ever wonder what happens to a doll’s soul when it burns?” Personally, I had never wondered that before watching the film, but now it’s the main subject in every one of my nightmares. This is where I should reiterate that The Nutcracker is a $90 million film intended almost solely for children.
So you’ve probably made up your mind on Woody Allen. You’ve read Dylan Farrow’s sobering accounts of her child abuse at his hands, Vanity Fair’s “10 Undeniable Facts,” and everything else, and now you’re facing a dilemma about what to do with the man’s works. You’d rather not watch Allen’s films and support a person who’s committed such evil acts, but wouldn’t sacrificing him as an artistic and cultural institution be detrimental to the history of cinema?
My friend helmutdoork with this great and extensive piece over at ANIMAL. Because fuck Woody Allen.
This is a really great list (they had the wrong Terence in the Teorama blurb though - it’s fixed now). Also, fuck Woody Allen.
Let us now praise Thelma Schoonmaker, the editor behind every Martin Scorsese film made in the last 33 years. The two met at NYU and worked together on Scorsese’s first full-length film, Who’s That Knocking on My Door?, and then worked together again on Woodstock in 1969 (pictured above). After a decade apart, Scorsese brought her on board to edit Raging Bull (1980) - and he’s never had another editor since.
And just in case she wasn’t already incredible enough, Ms. Schoonmaker was also married to legendary director, Michael Powell (of Powell/Pressburger fame), until his death in 1990 (Scorsese first introduced them). The 74 year old editor’s latest efforts can currently be seen onscreen in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Here’s a fantastic 13 minute clip of Scorsese and Schoonmaker working in the editing room together back in the late 1980s.
always respect thelma schoonmaker (even when i don’t feel very respectful of scorsese).
While we are all waiting for Only Lovers Left Alive to come out, here’s your dose of Beautiful Doomed Vampire Lovers for today.
Opening sequence to The Hunger, featuring Bauhaus, Catherine Denuvue, and David Bowie
(It’s all spooky fun and games until about 5:40 then it starts getting bloody)
Most of these kinds of lists are predictable and boring, but this one is pretty interesting.
I am required to love a list that puts Kung Fu Hustle alongside Stanley Kubrick, Killer of Sheep, and The Bicycle Thief. That Mel Gibson movie though…
I’m used to reading his reviews every week. I don’t even know what movies are out anymore since he died :(
Are there any other good film reviewers out there nowadays?
Because mine is “Destroy Everything You Touch” by Ladytron.
I am genuinely sad to hear about this. I had a feeling when he stopped reviewing films a few months ago something was up.
I watched Siskel and Ebert religiously when I was a kid. I lived in the middle of nowhere and we had a single movie theater with one screen and artsy/independent/foreign films were literally unreachable for me. Before Blockbuster video, before the internet, those little clips I got on Sneak Previews were my one glimpse into a larger artistic world.
I’ve always loved reading his film reviews ever since the Sun-Times started archiving them online. I’ve checked his website weekly for years and years. He was a good writer and even when I didn’t agree with his take on a movie I would always learn something from what he had to say. I’m used to checking on what he thinks of all the films that come out and it’s going to take quite awhile to break that habit.
Condolences to his wife Chaz. She seems really awesome and they always looked really in love with each other and oh, that makes me even more sad. :(
Drunk!Cersei (Blackwater, 2x09)
reminding you that Drunk!Cersei is the best
I wrote about this once before, but I see there’s a new US release coming out just in time for Christmas…
For $60, you get a 15-hour documentary on the history of cinema around the world, from the very beginning right up to now, with special emphasis on world cinema beyond the usual US/Europe pantheon.
Every episode is packed with TONS of film clips, interviews with major directors/writers/actors, and in-depth analysis of the development of film language as it communicated across borders, across genres and across decades.
Even if you don’t agree with all the assertations, the inclusions and ommissions, you will LEARN a lot from this series.
Attack the Block (2011)
This is a great fucking movie and you should see it.
I’m not sure WTF I just saw but I reeeally liked it.
First of all, it looked fantastic. Worth seeing on the big screen in 70mm.
If you’re hoping for a Scientology expose, forget ALL about that. Paul Thomas Anderson is not interested in that. Yes, the Philip Seymour Hoffman character is obviously L. Ron Hubbard and PTA obviously thinks The Cause is all hogwash, but that’s not what the movie is about. It may have started out that way, but in the making of the thing it became just another interesting setting for psychodrama. Really, the less you know about Scientology and the less you’re looking for parallels to that, the more you’ll enjoy this.
The Master is a cousin to There Will Be Blood in a lot of ways. Some of which are sort of obvious and vaucous, like that they’re both period pieces centering around a solitary and troubled man set up against his opposite. Or who initially appears to be his opposite, but is really a kind of counterpart. The soundtracks are pretty similar, both of them percussive and interior and unsettling. More than that, though, they just feel similar. Evasive. They’re mysteries. Mysteries of personality. Why is this man the way he is? What made him that way? Could he ever have been otherwise? What is this connection he has with this other man? And for that matter how does anybody connect with anybody?
I have to say that as good as PSH is in this, Joaquin Phoenix is fucking mesmerizing. Really astonishingly good. I could just watch his facial expressions and body language all day and never be bored. His character is kind of a slow-motion trainwreck you can’t look away from. If you’re a fan of Phoenix and HIS FACE this movie is a great excuse to stare at it lingeringly for two and a half hours, and I actually mean that in a good way.
Lancaster’s interest in Freddie is sort of mysterious in itself and they never really explain that (the movie never really explains anything, of course). If I got really boringly analytical about it you could say that he wanted to cure Freddie of all the things he most disliked in himself, since at the root of it they are very similar people. In his own way Lancaster is also a drifter and a fuckup who exists in his own bubble of adulation and success and flees a situation any time that bubble is pierced even slightly. (This is especially clear if you’re at all familiar with L Ron Hubbard). But I think that kind of explanation is trying to pin down something amorphous and elusive that lives in this film and spoils some of the wonder of it.
I also thought Amy Adams was fascinating in a much smaller role that has a lot going on under the surface. There are an awful lot of interesting gender dynamics going on in this movie and she is sort of the exclamation point on the whole thing. Considering the film is set in the 1950s she calls to mind the stupid saying about behind every great man and if she doesn’t have a great man to get out in front of her, by god she will make him one.
Anyway: I love Paul Thomas Anderson and I was not disappointed. I thought this movie was riveting and I need to see it again to really get a handle on it.
A few interesting details I’m pulling out of this. These are all from the Top 100 films only
Films by female directors: (ONE FILM)
Films not made in America or Western Europe: (18 films)
(Russia and Japan account for 12 of the 18 films)
Films made after 1970: (19 films)
If you love movies, you MUST watch this.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a documentary series produced for UK television by Irish film critic Mark Cousins. It is 15 episodes long and covers the entire history of film around the world.
Emphasis on around the world. It puts into context what was happening in film in Europe and the US with what was happening in India, Brazil, Japan, China, and Russia at the same time, and how filmmakers from different countries both innovated and were influenced by each other. Cousins openly states at the beginning of the series that the received narrative about the history of film is racist and euro/US-centric, and that we can’t really understand film as an art form without viewing it as a global phenomenon.
It’s also an openly feminist document. Cousins spotlights the role of women as screenwriters in early Hollywood silent film, and how they were pushed out when sound films became the norm and big-dollar studios took over. He features more female directors than you even knew existed, women such as Forough Farrokhzad, the poetess who made the first major film of the Iranian New Wave.
He also highlights queer cinema and the contributions of GLBT people worldwide to the history of film.
You don’t have to be a knowledgable film buff to appreciate this. Especially if you know nothing about silent film or foreign films, this documentary is a great place to start. It assumes you know absolutely nothing and takes you from there. As we are watching it, my boyfriend and I have a pad of paper where we’re writing down all the films we want to check out. We’re on page 4 now, and we’re not done yet.
It is, for real, a film school course you can watch at home.