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The Day the Movies Died (GQ)


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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Paul D G

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Posted March 02 2011 - 10:55 PM

I'm going to share an article from GQ entitled "The Day the Movies Died."


http://www.gq.com/en...currentPage=all


I'm not sure I agree with the author's point, tho.  He complains that good movies aren't being made anymore, or rather, they are, but they're too few and far between.  But hasn't it always been like this?  Pick any year and look at what came out.  For every quality film there are dozens upon dozens of lessor, forgettable films.  Today we have blockbusters, back then we had star vehicles.  Doesn't mean those were any better.  For every Scorsese there's a dozen Alan Smithees.  True now as it was true then.


- I agree with the overabundance of sequels (of the eight films in HTF's banner above this, six are sequels, but how many Universal Horror sequels came out?  Ma and Pa Kettle, Bowery Boys, Henry Aldrich, Andy Hardy - weren't they all sequels?)


- Disagree with his distaste for films based on comics (many films are based on comics - just as valid a resource as books, plays, and short stories - and they don't all involve superheroes)


- Agree with his assessment that women's films are mostly crap (i feel bad for my wife that every chick flick she looks forward to seeing invariably turns out to be crap)


- And disagree with his overall standpoint - Not every movie has to be an Inception.  Some movies can be, as Quentin Tarantino once said, "just a fun night out at the movies, man!"


(I will say that I hate the idea of watching a movie on an ipad or a phone.  that we have 65 inch HD tv screens and we're apparently fine watching movies and tv streamed off the internet)



#2 of 21 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted March 03 2011 - 01:00 AM

This is why we have big DVD collections to savor over and over again. Every time I watch a bad movie in a theater, instead of huffing and puffing on my way out I think about all those awesome DVDs and Blu-rays I have to fall back on at home. I don't remember the last time I truly enjoyed a new film in a theater. Mostly I just go to get out of the house.


 

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#3 of 21 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 03 2011 - 01:06 AM

Originally Posted by Paul D G 

He complains that good movies aren't being made anymore, or rather, they are, but they're too few and far between.  But hasn't it always been like this?



Absolutely. When the second movie ever made was shown, there was probably a guy whining that it wasn't as good as the first one and that movies aren't as good as they used to be.



#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 03 2011 - 02:15 AM


Originally Posted by Paul D G 

He complains that good movies aren't being made anymore, or rather, they are, but they're too few and far between.



To be strictly accurate, he complains that good movies aren't being made anymore (or often enough) by Hollywood. It's an important (and very sly) qualification. Both as an academic and a lawyer, I learned how useful it can be to define my terms with the right limitations, if I want the arguments to play out a certain way.


Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on movie-making. It may have larger pools of money to throw at the problem, but experience has demonstrated repeatedly that wads of cash don't necessarily translate into good movies. Even "Hollywood" seems to recognize this, since they keep handing the Best Picture Oscar (and other top honors) to independently produced films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech. Even if one doesn't agree with those choices, the fact that they were made outside of Hollywood, and then took Hollywood by storm, is a giant elephant-in-the-room for Harris' argument.


And I haven't even mentioned world cinema, which brings up all the snobbish reactions against subtitled films. But I would argue that such reactions are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Subtitled dialogue is now so common an element on TV that moviegoers are no longer as allergic to it as they used to be, and a film like the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can do quite well in U.S. theaters, because it has the brand name of an international bestseller to market it.


So while Hollywood may be a bastion of crass commercialism (and I'm sure Chaplin, Pickford and Griffith thought the same when they started United Artists), so what? It isn't the only game in town, though it suits Harris' apocalyptic tone to create that impression.


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#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted March 03 2011 - 06:56 AM

I think you guys are missing his point -- he's not complaining that there aren't enough good Hollywood movies anymore; he's complaining that Hollywood has become obsessed with brand marketing (especially juvenile brands) to the detriment of original movie ideas.  (Of course, he kind of undermines his own point when he admits that many brand-based films are good. He also loses credibility when he uses Prince of Persia as an example of a bad brand-based film and Iron Man as an example of a good one, but probably just with me. :) )


On the other hand. I completely agree with Paul about watching movies on 3-inch screens.  Why bother?



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#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 03 2011 - 08:28 AM



Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman 

I think you guys are missing his point -- (a) he's not complaining that there aren't enough good Hollywood movies anymore; (b) he's complaining that Hollywood has become obsessed with brand marketing (especially juvenile brands) to the detriment of original movie ideas. 


I don't see a sufficient difference between (a) and (b) to make the distinction worth drawing (at least in this context). Both suffer from the terminological sleight-of-hand I described above and are therefore of limited relevance, IMO.


I get his point. I just don't find it original, illuminating or interesting.


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#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted March 03 2011 - 08:36 AM

To put it another way: He thinks that Inception is great and The Dark Knight is great too, but he wishes that Hollywood was more amenable to making original properties like Inception in an era where it's mainly guided by branding (like Batman).


I think the case can easily be made that the level of originality in Hollywood has been decreasing over time, even if the number of good films hasn't.  (It's so easy, in fact, that you are probably right in saying that his position is not especially original. I thought it was an interesting presentation of the idea, though. :) )



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#8 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris Farmer

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Posted March 03 2011 - 11:49 AM



Originally Posted by Michael Reuben 




I don't see a sufficient difference between (a) and (b) to make the distinction worth drawing (at least in this context). Both suffer from the terminological sleight-of-hand I described above and are therefore of limited relevance, IMO.


I get his point. I just don't find it original, illuminating or interesting.



There's a significant difference. One is about making good movies that strike gold once and then move on. The other is about something that can be turned into a perpetual franchise with sequels, merchandising, spin-offs, etc. There's a particularly easy example from the video game industry. A couple years back there was a pretty good game based on Ghostbusters that even reprised almost the entire original cast. Originally Activision was going to publish it, but they dropped the game because they couldn't turn it into a franchise with annual sequels like Guitar Hero or Call of Duty. Even though it was shaping up to be a good game, since it would be a one-shot Activision didn't want it.


In the movie industry, the comparison would be refusing to do Inception but allowing Batman because the latter could have built-in sequels and the latter doesn't. As great as Inception was, I doubt Nolan is in any hurry to make Inception 2. You can still make good movies within franchises, so aiming for franchises does not preclude quality (and honestly, I think the number of truly good franchise movies is at an all-time high lately). However, an obsession with franchises does mean that quality, original ideas that don't necessarily expand beyond the movie itself might get shot down.



#9 of 21 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 03 2011 - 12:23 PM

Isn't it more of going to the movies is die-ing? I went twice last year and other then on the internet, I don't know many people who go as often as we did 10-15 years ago.
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#10 of 21 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 03 2011 - 01:02 PM



Originally Posted by TonyD 

Isn't it more of going to the movies is die-ing?

I went twice last year and other then on the internet, I don't know many people
who go as often as we did 10-15 years ago.
 



I believe that the numbers are down (as the industry seems to cry about every year that they don't have the best year in history) but the 10 grossing movies this year made more than 2 and a half billion dollars in the U.S. so I don't think the death of theaters is imminent.



#11 of 21 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 03 2011 - 01:25 PM

I know about the money numbers, but isn't part of that because it costs anywhere from $12 - $20 to see a movie now. I person paying for a ticket is equal to 3 or 4 paying 15 years ago.
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#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 03 2011 - 02:16 PM



Originally Posted by Chris Farmer 


There's a significant difference. One is about making good movies that strike gold once and then move on. The other is about something that can be turned into a perpetual franchise with sequels, merchandising, spin-offs, etc. There's a particularly easy example from the video game industry. A couple years back there was a pretty good game based on Ghostbusters that even reprised almost the entire original cast. Originally Activision was going to publish it, but they dropped the game because they couldn't turn it into a franchise with annual sequels like Guitar Hero or Call of Duty. Even though it was shaping up to be a good game, since it would be a one-shot Activision didn't want it.


In the movie industry, the comparison would be refusing to do Inception but allowing Batman because the latter could have built-in sequels and the latter doesn't. As great as Inception was, I doubt Nolan is in any hurry to make Inception 2. You can still make good movies within franchises, so aiming for franchises does not preclude quality (and honestly, I think the number of truly good franchise movies is at an all-time high lately). However, an obsession with franchises does mean that quality, original ideas that don't necessarily expand beyond the movie itself might get shot down.


I said I didn't see a difference "in this context". In a different context  -- say, another industry (e.g., video games) or an alternate universe (one where Inception wasn't made) -- I might agree that there was a significant difference. Harris' article isn't limited to the franchise issue. It also talks about the takeover of the adult market by themes and topics once reserved for children (he calls them "infantilizing movies"), and he works over the usual complaints about movies aimed at an audience composed of "ADD-addled, short-term-memory-lacking, easily excitable testosterone junkie[s]". His theme is much broader than franchise vs. one-off.


And to repeat my initial point: The entire discussion is artificially limited, because it assumes that Hollywood is the only place where movies are made -- which reveals Harris to be contaminated by the very narrow-mindedness he condemns.


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#13 of 21 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 03 2011 - 02:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TonyD 

I know about the money numbers, but isn't part of that because it costs anywhere from $12 - $20 to see a movie now.
I person paying for a ticket is equal to 3 or 4 paying 15 years ago.


Sure, tickets are more today but studios aren't giving up on theaters when it's a revenue stream that still generates billions of dollars.



#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 03 2011 - 02:36 PM


Originally Posted by TravisR 


Sure, tickets are more today but studios aren't giving up on theaters when it's a revenue stream that still generates billions of dollars.


It's also a revenue stream that's still growing, if one counts the international box office. It's only in the U.S. and Canada that the box office is stagnant:


http://www.nytimes.c...OINGLE_BRF.html


What's more, the key to reviving the U.S. box office may be the older audience that contributed substantially to the big returns for such films as True Grit, The King's Speech, The Fighter and Black Swan:


http://www.nytimes.c...moviegoers.html


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#15 of 21 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted March 03 2011 - 03:02 PM

Quote:



Sure, tickets are more today but studios aren't giving up on theaters when it's a revenue stream that still generates billions of dollars.

Studios get what, 90% of the money the first two weeks? No kidding they aren't giving up on that. Theaters aren't going away but there are more screens in one space and less actual Theaters over the last 20 years. And I think it's leveled off, no more new Theaters plus no More going down.
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#16 of 21 OFFLINE   Paul D G

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Posted March 03 2011 - 07:41 PM

What really can't be helping is you can have one movie take up three screens at a megaplex.  I'm not talking about a film maximizing profits but having a showing start every hour on the hour, but when you have something like Green Hornet playing in 2D, 3D and Imax at the same theater and not really drawing enough interest to warrant even two auditoriums, well, that's got to be cutting into everyone's profits.



#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted March 04 2011 - 02:24 AM


Originally Posted by Michael Reuben 

And to repeat my initial point: The entire discussion is artificially limited, because it assumes that Hollywood is the only place where movies are made -- which reveals Harris to be contaminated by the very narrow-mindedness he condemns.


He's not assuming that there are no movies outside of Hollywood studios (in fact, he mentions the indie boom of the '90s and cable channels).  He's just talking about Hollywood studios, and specifically, box office (as opposed to home-based media like DVD).  When people talk about how a movie performs, they're still talking about its performance in theaters. And in 99% of movie theaters in this country, it's Hollywood studio (or at least Hollywood studio financed and/ or distributed) films on every screen.  The one foreign-language film that made a recent appearance was a brand that was already popular in this country (and it's been remade in Hollywood anyway).  So it's not as though his topic is too narrow to be valid.



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#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 04 2011 - 03:10 AM




Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman 

He's not assuming that there are no movies outside of Hollywood studios (in fact, he mentions the indie boom of the '90s and cable channels).  He's just talking about Hollywood studios, and specifically, box office (as opposed to home-based media like DVD).  When people talk about how a movie performs, they're still talking about its performance in theaters. And in 99% of movie theaters in this country, it's Hollywood studio (or at least Hollywood studio financed and/ or distributed) films on every screen.  The one foreign-language film that made a recent appearance was a brand that was already popular in this country (and it's been remade in Hollywood anyway).  So it's not as though his topic is too narrow to be valid.



My critique of Harris didn't rest on "foreign-language film[s]" -- in fact the opposite. (Did you even read post #4?) And I like the way you slipped in "financed and/or distributed", which attempts to open up the topic substantially beyond what Harris is discussing, since his article is expicitly focused on what Hollywood studios will finance. (Even distribution isn't as simple as it used to be, which is why you have outfits like Lionsgate, Starz/Overture and Summit doing it themselves.)


My bottom line on Harris is this: What he says has some truth to is, but so do all platitudes. He's just recycling a critique of the film industry that's both well-worn and banal for an audience of would-be sophisticates that wants to feel superior to the weekly outpouring of multiplex filler but doesn't want to have to stretch itself too far (basically, the target audience for GQ).


And BTW, the title is "The Day the Movies Died", not "The Day the Box Office Died" or "The Day the Hollywood Movies Died". The implicit assumption throughout the article is that he's talking about the entire movie business. Ironically, while Harris is focusing narrowly on the U.S. box office, the very studios he's discussing are focusing more and more on the overseas markets, because that's where they see their biggest growth potential.


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#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted March 04 2011 - 05:53 AM

Of course I read post #4 -- it's the movie that you mentioned that actually helps illustrate Harris' point. :)  At any rate, the point is that he's talking about the movies that appear in American movie theaters -- movies that the major studios (at this point I would probably include Lionsgate in that category) put lots of money into.  Distribution counts, because (as he stated) it can cost $50 million just to market a wide-release film.


I don't disagree that the basic argument is well-worn, but it's not banal.  Even looking at multiplex filler, the further back in time one goes, the less branding one sees.


As for the title, well, titles are supposed to be sensational -- their purpose is to get people to read an article.  And it's entirely possible that some GQ editor came up with it.



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#20 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 04 2011 - 07:04 AM


Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman 

Of course I read post #4 -- it's the movie that you mentioned that actually helps illustrate Harris' point. :) 


I "mentioned" four movies. You ignored the three from my main point. And yes, I realize that he's talking about "movies that the major studios . . . put lots of money into". That's precisely why his discussion is not interesting. Once someone chooses that path, there's a familiar list of complaints that spews forth with the tiresome predictability of phlegm being coughed up after a cold. It makes me want to cover my mouth and go elsewhere. And here I go . . .


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