Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Where Have all the Good Films Gone?

So Johnny Depp is thinking of signing up for yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film. This is not surprising in the least seeing as the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. It is just disheartening as a film fan to see the constant barrage of remakes and sequels coming from Hollywood lately. Don't get me wrong, the first Pirates was one of my all time favorite films. It had everything a film like that needs: adventure, sword-fighting, a stellar cast, and lots of great lines. I even dug the second one, especially the ending. But as the series wore on, it got tiring. There are only so many times that I can watch Johnny sauntering drunkenly around trading one-lines with Geoffrey Rush.
I know the purpose of making a film is to make money. Working in Hollywood is the same as having any other job; film studios are making a product and they want someone to buy it. At the same time, movies are much different than anything else. While films are commodities, they are also art forms; they are experiences that transport the viewer, engage the senses, and inspire the mind. The problem becomes one of constantly having to balance the desire to make a profit with the need to be creators. See the Pixar/Disney Cars 2 debacle for proof. The New York Times had a great article about this issue called "A Collision of Creativity and Cash" which discussed Disney's desire to create a franchise vs. Pixar's need for great story telling. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/business/02stewart.html
It is so frustrating. Why does it have to be one or the other: a film that makes a ton of money or a film that tells a good story? Why do movie-goers shell out $13 to see Transformers 3 in 3D and neglect Tree of Life?  I know in my case it was availability. Tree of Life, Submarine, and Beginners (all films I want to see) are playing no where near me. I also know that once I get involved with characters in a series, I want to see what happens to them; I become invested in their stories and so I go to see each sequel that comes out. And like I've stated in numerous reviews so far this summer, sometimes I do not like to think, sometimes I just want to see things explode. However, that is not all the time. I loved Midnight in Paris because it was thoughtful and beautiful and so different from everything I've seen so far this summer.
I feel that more and more directors are discouraged to put out new, original films because it is safer to make films that audiences already know. We have so few Inceptions, films that are willing to be totally original and at the same time become top box office winners. Pixar proved that one can only be successful for so long before the desire to make money outweighs that of the need to create something new. Hopefully with Brave they can get back on track.
So, what about for the rest of the film industry? It seems that for awhile at least we will be stuck in this never ending cycle of remakes and sequels. Film industries will still look for ways to make money that they know will be guaranteed successes. The thing is, we do not have to take it. Another reason why the film industry is so unique is because it relies on us, the viewers to decide what they produce. If we refuse to watch another Pirates sequel or the Spiderman reboot, they will stop making them. But that will never happen. There will always be those people who like the familiar, who like the comfortable, who go to the theater to have fun and nothing more. At the same time, there will also always be people who go to the theater for a new experience, to think, to be drawn in. 
As I have said, I am conflicted because I belong to both worlds. I love films that are beautiful and thought provoking, but at the same time I am guilty of seeing all of the Pirates and Transformers that come out. I'm not saying we have to chose just one type of film to watch. What I am saying is that I wish studios could find a way to make both kinds of films more often and to trust that those are the kinds of films viewers want to see: funny, smart, and also packing some punch.

1 comment:

  1. It is frustrating to see remake after retake, leaving creativity and originality behind in years passed. I feel as you do and long for the years long ago when making movies was more about the beauty of creation. I have been looking into older films lately, not just recent oldies but going back even farther. I was glad when I found out that my work, Dish Network was buying Blockbuster a couple months ago, as I knew getting movies was about to get a lot easier and there would be more available. Now there are no late fees or due dates and it, works pretty much like Netflix but better. I am just a simple film nut, always will be and I will always be looking out for the next best film. The unique one that will take my mind and bend it sideways for a while, so I am living in a half reality for a while. I've been having a blast catapulting into exclusive examples of real films. http://bit.ly/jP1NIT