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David Poland

By David Poland

Oy, Is This Dumb

I love dumb pronouncements!!!

Patrick Goldstein came up with a doozy today, slapping at Jim “Terminator 2” Cameron for doing Avatar sequels and grandly pronouncing – very Nikki – that if Jim were sitting in his office, he’d be trying to convince Patrick that… blah, blah, blah.

Does anyone actually believe that Jim Cameron can’t do an small original if he wants… with a studio’s money or not? How about a $100m original?

Are we going to discuss the gun Paramount put to the head of Spielberg and Lucas to do Indy 4 next?

The reason I hate these kinds of stories so very much is they spread lies. “The LA Times said…”

Yes, studios are wary of spending $90 million on a drama with no serious action story and actors who don’t draw. But they will still make dramas… on a budget… in the very much the same way they did for the last couple of decades in which most drama shifted to TV. The insanity of recent years was that budgets for original dramas got oversized because DVD revenue created a cushion that disallowed – for the most part – failure. So suddenly, you had movies that could reasonably expected to do $40 million budgeted at $80m and $90m. And even when those movies did $40m domestic and $40m international, they were suddenly completely capable of losing money.

The mythology of the end of originality is being spread by frustrated filmmakers, who want to make less than completely commercial films, and media, which loves bashing Hollywood for being unoriginal. Thing is, even eliminating the four animated films in the Top 20 this year, only seven of the Top 20 were remakes or sequels. But no one wants to embrace The Other Guys, The Expendables, and Grownups as great original successes.

Apparently, your originality only counts if it is taken seriously by the media. So Inception and maybe… maaaaayyybe Shutter Island are allowed to be thought of as successful originals… but then get written off because of budget and pedigree.

Getting back to Patrick’s blather… he goes off the rails by showing no memory of movie history, as he narrows his list of “favorite filmmakers” to those “filmmaking gods who are currently free from the stench of sequelitis.”

On the bad list, Chris Nolan, who just made a $200 million budget original that grossed $800 million worldwide, but dares to return to a third Batman film. Brad Bird, who has never made an animated sequel or a live action film, period. Bird turned down a lot of original live-action scripts that were ready for green lights, but has chosen – again, for his FIRST live-action feature – to work in the safe environment of Team Abrams at Paramount. Ridley Scott, whose only sequel until he starts the Alien prequels was Hannibal and whose last two complete originals- which is to say, not based on specific history – both failed at the box office. Michael Mann, who has always looked to history for more than half of his films. John Lasseter, who has run the most original producer of original films in the last decade, but has now allowed Pixar to start making sequels. And The Coen Bros., who… you know… why even bother… sod off, Patrick… how dare you stamp unoriginality on the men who aren’t remaking True Grit, but going back to the source material, which you would put off limits because someone adapted it 40 years ago. Fuck you, Shakespeare! Julie Taymor has no imagination, doing The Tempest with Helen Mirren as Prospero… off with her head!

And the ones he likes.. who are still pure? FIncher, who is about to start a 3 movie series of what won’t feel like remakes, but do follow in the current series of Swedish productions of the books. Scorsese… making a 3D movie… who has rarely left enough characters alive for a sequel… and won the Oscar for a remake, got Newman an Oscar for a sequel, remade Cape Fear, dug into Wharton, etc. Jim Brooks, who has directed 2 films in the last 13 years, only one of which anyone wanted to see. Danny Boyle, who has always had an original eye, but who has sequelized. Paul Thomas Anderson, whose last two movies both lost a bunch of money in spite of great romances with the critics. Bully for him that he wants to keep his originality and is willing to not work to do so. But hardly a standard for the industry. And of course, Eastwood, the only insider who is really clean these days, but whose five Dirty Harry films sit on my shelf.

And don’t get me wrong. I love almost all of the directors on Patrick’ “pure” list. I also love and like a lot of directors who aren’t on his list or in his frame of reference. There are even directors who make great films who live in foreign countries and work on budgets of under $50 million… even under $15 million.

And note this… of ALL 10 major studio non-animated wide releases this month… ONLY Harry Potter 7 is a sequel and you can only touch one more, For Colored Girls, as being based on a well-know piece of material.

I am curious to see who wants to argue the other side, beyond, “Of course studios don’t want originality… they turned down my favorite project!” The studios suck, sure. They make a lot of crap, yeah. I am not raising them on my shoulders for a rousing cheer. But let us condemn them for what they actually do and not continue to maintain and promote the lazy mythologies that we have committed to over the years.

Just last night on The Daily Show, they showed 20 years or so of a politician complaining about how The System is broken… while he was a leader of the system. Go deeper. Your readers deserve it.

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7 Responses to “Oy, Is This Dumb”

  1. Vik says:

    This is the same James Cameron that Goldstein is lamenting as a “New King of Retread Cinema…” who did Aliens and then Terminator 2?

    What’s so “new” about Cameron and sequels?

    And who cares even if he does sequels if they are awesome films like Aliens and T2? Weird article.

  2. sloanish says:

    Why would you write an article against directors who do bad sequels by using the only director who makes sequels that are better than the originals?

  3. Vik says:

    Exactly, good point

  4. IOv3 says:

    I will give you T2 but you dare insult Sir Ridley like that again! PAIN!

  5. Vik says:

    Of course you are right too – at the very least Cameron has always made sequels and great ones.

  6. Nick Rogers says:

    Unless you’re counting his marginal executive-producer credit on “28 Weeks Later,” Danny Boyle hasn’t “sequelized.” At least not yet, as I did read of his possible directorial interest in another “28” movie.

  7. Ty says:

    Your talk of Paul Thomas Anderson’s last two films losing money is 100% false. Punch-Drunk Love made back its budget almost exactly, and There Will Be Blood was made for $25 million and ended up grossing $75 million, which I’d say is a pretty solid return on a pretty non-commercial film. Get your facts straight son.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

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I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon