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March 16, 2011

The Day the Movies Died

Hollywood's first question is not 'Will the movie be good?' but 'Can it be sold?'

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Check out this awesome analysis -- by GQ writer Mark Harris -- on the overall decline of smart movies coming out of Hollywood, where execs are more interested in whether an idea can be marketed rather than whether it's good, intelligent, unique.

Some highlights, directly from the story:

> I don't mean that there are fewer really good movies than ever before (last year had its share, and so will 2011) but that it has never been harder for an intelligent, moderately budgeted, original movie aimed at adults to get onto movie screens nationwide.

> How did Hollywood get here? There's no overarching theory, no readily identifiable villain, no single moment to which the current combination of caution, despair, and underachievement that defines studio thinking can be traced. But let's pick one anyway: Top Gun.

> The guys who felt the rush of Top Gun because it was custom-built to excite them is now in its forties, exactly the age of many mid- and upper-midrange studio executives. And increasingly, it is their taste, their appetite, and the aesthetic of their late-'80s postadolescence that is shaping moviemaking.

> Such an unrelenting focus on the sell rather than the goods may be why so many of the dispiritingly awful movies that studios throw at us look as if they were planned from the poster backward rather than from the good idea forward. Marketers revere the idea of brands, because a brand means that somebody, somewhere, once bought the thing they're now trying to sell.

> If you were born before 1985 . . . well, it is my sad duty to inform you that in the eyes of Hollywood, you are one of what the kids on the Internet call "the olds." To the studios, which have realized that the closer you get to (or the farther you get from) your thirtieth birthday, the more likely you are to develop things like taste and discernment, which render you an exhausting proposition in terms of selling a movie.

> More often than not, these collectively infantilizing movies are breeding an audience—not to mention a generation of future filmmakers and studio executives—who will grow up believing that movies aimed at adults should be considered a peculiar and antique art. Like books. Or plays.

That's enough teasers from the story. If you like movies, and are concerned about the lack of intelligent stories hitting the big screen, this is your kind of essay.

Comments

Way over-thought-out article. Producers, execs and investors have always only been interested in one thing about movies: Will it make me money? It's really that simple - and it makes sense. Who wants to spend millions and lose their shirt?

We have just been fortunate that some of those money makers have been good movies.

The thought is frightening however that Hollywood executives actually DO first think "has someone bought this before" when planing what movies to give the green light to. Evedenced by all the remakes of past franchises we will be seeing in the next few years. Not to mention the number of comic book stories we are going to get in 2011 alone.

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