Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The (sorry) state of the movie industry

I've mentioned Earl Pomerantz before. He is a terrific writer. Wrote some of your favorite CHEERS, TAXI, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, COBSY SHOW episodes. He now has a blog you should check out.

Today he features a lengthy but great article about the current state of the movie industry and why he'll prefer to stay in television, thank you.

You can find it here.

A new post follows soon -- my thoughts on Kelsey Grammer's recent minor heart attack.


Anonymous said...

Hollywood is just like the Department of Education, when times get tough they cut the Arts, Music, and if they could figure out a way, they'd even cut the English Department--the none essential stuff--and keep Sports. Hollywood is no different, Art Films? We don't need no stinking art films, we need films that make money. Which is why every freaking studio in town prefers to repeat themselves, putting out the same movies every year...It's why Judd Apatow is the flavor of the month. Easy films make money, thinkingfilms don't. And in the Art vs. Commerce Wars. Freaking commerce wins out every time.

Surely this cannot be a surprise.

Sooner or later though, BIG Corporations will tire of the Movie Business and studios will meld back into during what they do best: make movies...

I just hope I live long enough to see it.

Anonymous said...

I read this post this morning. Earl is a daily read and always puts a lot of thought into his posts. Thanks for pointing him out to me.

Lane said...

Ken, sorry to put this comment here, but I just watched "The Billfold Syndrome" episode of MASH on Nick at Nite... such a great episode and unique as well - can you please write a future blog on the background of how you came up with this script and the production?

Darth Weasel said...

I have to admit there is something here I will need explained to me. I should preface it by saying this; I see a huge difference between education and entertainment. Education is to prepare people for life or make them more aware whereas entertainment is...well...to entertain. So this strictly addresses the criticism of Hollywood making films designed to entertain as many people as possible instead of making things very few people will see. After all, there is a reason Eastern Promises or You Kill Me have a limited audience while The Departed sells millions of tickets...

Arguing that "art films" which entertain a comparatively miniscule portion of the population are intrinsically superior to movies which entertain millions of people has never made sense to me. Yeah, I saw "Coffee and Cigarettes". Once. It was okay. But nothing I felt compelled to see again or discuss with anyone. However, a movie like Spiderman 3...heavily panned and ridiculed, full of plot holes and the incredibly jingoistic flag pose, is still so entertaining to me that I have no problem watching it again. So I am one of the people the artistic intelligentsia roundly criticize. I know that. I just don't care enough to change my ways since it does, in fact, entertain me. Which brings me back to my question.

Why do people feel compelled to argue that making unentertaining material is inherently superior to making stuff people enjoy? I would legitimately like to hear (okay, read) someone give a solid, meaningful reason why stuff that few people will enjoy should nevertheless be supported financially by people trying to make money.

I recently read a review of Coppolas work in which his "personal films" were heralded as "almost unwatchable", yet the studios were criticized for not wanting to finance them and the people were lambasted for not wanting to pay to see them. What am I missing here?

Life is to short for me to indulge others in making material that is self-indulgent or rather obfuscated by being too in to making a statement. Okay, so a Fellini will entertain 3 people...why is that inherently superior to something that will entertain 30,000? (Yes, the numbers are a bit facetious. Fellini never had a shot at entertaining anywhere near 3 people)

I think it is a legitimate question and am willing to be surprised by a well thought out answer that addresses the actual issues instead of dropping some elitist party line on us. Who knows, I might even be swayed. Until then, though, I will keep on dropping my nickels on the "Kung Fu Panda" and "Forbidden Kingdom" type things and avoiding the "Vanilla Sky" type stuff. Do I know the intelligentsia will harangue me for that? Of course. But at the end of the discussion, it comes down to what entertains any given person.

and please, I am not trying to come across as obnoxious or argumentative...this is a legit question I have long pondered and this seems like a forum where I might actually hear some pretty strong arguements on behalf of the "art flick"

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how everyone calls out 1939, and it's true that there were a lot of well know, well respected movies up for best picture that year and even more that didn't make it.

On the other hand, that's not true for 1938, or 1940, or even 1945. Most of the movies up for best picture aren't that well know either.

1939 wasn't a shining example of how great Hollywood used to be, it's the one year where Hollywood was did everything right, but it's still an outliner.

Anonymous said...

(couldn't figure out how to post in the comments section on that blog - so will do so here)

Complaints about the current state of movies might hold more weight if 2007 had not been such an AMAZINGLY good year for movies .

American/English language movies i have seen this year that were excellent at best and admirable failures at worst:

The Hoax
Michael Clayton
Amazing Grace
The Band's Visit
Sweeny Todd
Mr., Brooks
The Lookout
In the Valley of Elah
Eastern Promises
The Assassination of Jesse James
Gone Baby Gone

(There WIll Be Blood and No Country for Old Men are NOT on my list for a reason).

I DO appreciate the extremely high writing quality of sitcoms at their best - but if you want to look a REALLY bad era for American movies - look no further than the 1960's (with a few notable exceptions of course).

Anonymous said...

It's a different business now, obviously. The studios used to make all kinds of movies, and until TV came along, there wasn't a lot of competition for our entertainment dollars. Now, the congloms are primarily interested in blockbusters, tentpoles and franchises. But thankfully those aren't the only films that get released. There's a lot of great work out there, but much of it flies under the radar. Sometimes I wonder if those who constantly bemoan the supposed diminished quality of "film today" simply forget that there are choices beyond the mega-hyped studio fare.

darth: I must say I don't quite get your post. While I'm sure there are art film snobs who reflexively reject mainstream fare, I suspect you're constructing a straw man. Is someone actually arguing that "making unentertaining material is inherently superior to making stuff people enjoy?" For one thing, the definition of entertainment is simply that which holds our attention.

As for the profit issue, maybe you should take that up with the folks who finance "art films." Someone must be making a buck on some of them or they wouldn't get produced. Occasionally such films have a more impressive profit margin than the overpriced blockbusters. Clearly it's not that there's NO market for art films - just a niche market. Why shouldn't that niche be served?

And as for Fellini - I realize you were being snarky, but of course way more than 3 people have been entertained by his films, several of which I would rank among the best ever made (The White Sheik, I Vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2). I don't have much interest in anything he did after those, but the fact remains that he was a highly successful and acclaimed artist, and I'm sure glad he was able to get funded. I don't think it would be elitist to say that his best films are artistically (if not inherently) superior to something like The Forbidden Kingdom, which I also managed to thoroughly enjoy.

The amusing thing about all this is that those who want only "films designed to entertain as many people as possible" have pretty much won the war at the mass market level. It's quite possible to go about your life these days without ever even hearing of most movies made outside the major studios. I can't imagine that this majority cares what the minority thinks, any more than Burger King worries about not reaching the foie gras market.