Sigh. Much like Bugs Bunny, superhero films might not be considered “high art,” but they’re not going away anytime soon. Besides which, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar already covered this: he’s not wrong, but he’s not right.
Toxic fans and risk-averse studios seem much better targets for umbrage — and finding ways to fund the types of films Coppola and Scorsese make without relying on the hell-bent-for-content motivation Netflix has? That just might be more worthwhile.
Now, in the face of a more meditative and gritty look at the origins of Joker –with more than a few homages to Martin Scorsese’s films– Scorsese himself felt the need to denigrate the Marvel film juggernaut as not “cinema.”
Now, on the one hand, that assertion is silly. It’s like saying a hamburger isn’t food because its preparation and presumed nutritional value isn’t on par with the fare from a three-star Michelin restaurant (and yes, you won’t surprise me if you produce examples of people asserting just that).
Well, technically, it’s a 96-minute press conference moderated by film historian, author, and critic Richard Schickel. However, it really is a bit of a masterclass as Alfred Hitchcock, quite confident in what he does and doesn’t do, gives pronouncements about how he goes about things.
Note that you may want to watch Family Plot, his last film, before watching this as that’s the reason for the press conference. You may also find that he’s rather old school and private in his answers, compared to what you might expect from a modern talk show. That should in no way distract some great nuggets of wisdom as to how he approaches filmmaking as a craft. I especially appreciated his observation on keeping the audience engaged and, above all, not confused.
Also, a pro-tip from the comments. If you play the video at 1.5 times speed (under the settings menu in YouTube), you’ll finish faster and Hitchcock will, frankly, not sound like the spokesman for the Slow Talkers of America (which he clearly isn’t, what with being British and all).
Now, superhero movies in general are not likely to be modestly budgeted these days: they’re too tempting to be used as tentpoles by the studios. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought in over $7 billion. Disney’s not about to abandon using them as tentpoles.
But what about the the medium where these superhero stories first appeared: comics?
Parts of their argument is that comics –even if they aren’t as all-fired profitable as their big screen offspring– serve an important function as idea incubators. In a sense, they’re narrative R&D projects. Certainly, good periodic comic books and graphic novels aren’t the cheapest things to produce — many an indie creator colleague has made me aware of that. But they are a darn sight cheaper than bankrolling a $120 million tentpole movie. And in fact, just about all the tentpole movies owe some of their “genetic material” from the comic form.
Another way they could be thought of is as the “narrative farm teams” for some of the bigger budgeted stories. And, of course, I’m thinking of that mainly for the business folks to better reconcile the numbers. The creativity and storytelling on display in so many comics is not “minor league,” but bean counters usually don’t care if a comic book was emotionally impactful, just how many units it sold. So whatever keeps the presses rolling.
The resulting list breaks down not only the types of films dozens of distribution companies acquire, but what festivals they typically attend, what their standard term lengths are, and so on.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard the sage advice of knowing your distribution plan before you make your film dozens of time. Well, it’s great to be reminded of that, but then there’s the whole problem of knowing –even within a given market– who the best buyers might be.
Yes, I’ll absolutely research the heck out of the individual companies before approach them, but I find this list is a great way to get some companies to keep in mind (or exclude) from the get-go. I hope that’s the case for many of you as well.
One wonky thing I’m endlessly fascinated by is film budgets. When you realize that an hour of modern “prestige” TV can top $10 million, yet the average Hollywood blockbuster is over $100 million, you know certain choices are being made and risks accepted.
And yes, I know traditional theatrical distribution and traditional network and cable distribution have business models that can inform and support these widely disparate budgets. However, I lap up little tidbits from behind-the-scenes features and other clues dropped in media interviews for how crafty producers and production staff save money here and there.
Here’s yet another instance where I have to thank my dad for taking us to see no end of foreign and classic movies growing up (TCM before TCM existed, as I like to say). Among all the other lessons I absorbed was the implicit reinforcement that you can have a damn fine movie for less than a blockbuster budget. Don’t get me wrong, things cost money… and there’s always something that costs more than you’d like. But great locations, sumptuous costumes, and even some visual effects work are absolutely within reach of modest or even “low” budgets.
But I’m not satisfied with the theoretical. I want to know specific tricks to save time and money. I want to know the ratios to use when estimating this versus that. I want to know the types of risks associated with all the different departments making a film.
Seriously, if you’ve kept reading up until this point, odds are much higher that you have been obsessing about these things too and Follow’s article goes straight to the kind of planning-based-on-historical-data producers (aka project managers) in any industry live for.
Read deep into the article and you will be able to plan risks and contingency budgets based by department. How cool is that?
I always add a new crop of films to the sort every time, but I also find time to re-watch some of the old films… and Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a great time to do so.
One of the films was the delightful modern fantasy, Field of Dreams. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that it ranked #29 in 2016 and #22 in both 2014 and 2012. Given my reaction to the recent viewing, I won’t be surprised that it remains in my Favorite 50.
Perhaps it’s the human predilection for pattern recognition, but because of the recent passing of William Goldman, I’ve been thinking a good deal about writing as it relates to getting one’s writing produced in Hollywood… and how random the process can sometimes be.
I touched on notions of fandom with my Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series and certainly toxic fandom has been more on people’s minds in the past year or so in any case (see, for example, these pieces on CNET and in Wired).
There’s obviously more in the book than just the subject of fandom, but that’s the focus of the article. Certainly, BSG –as it’s often abbreviated– provided ample opportunity for toxic fan uproar from its short yet expansive stint on TV. I’m sure had it been made nowadays, the uproar and venting would have been omnipresent. Much of what they pulled off was nothing less than exceptional, but let’s just say I don’t want to be in a room of BSG fans discussing how the series ended. That’s just going to get unpleasant.
(I mean, it’ll probably be called “most bestest outstanding achievement in popular film” or something like that, but you know what I mean).
On the one hand, it’s their awards and award process, so change away. On the other hand, why shouldn’t they tweak and adjust and change their award categories and methodology as they have just about every decade?
(By the way, I absolutely think one of the tweaks should be adding “Best Stunt Choreography” category — and no, you don’t need to eliminate any of the other awards to add that).
But on the third hand –and it’s really better you don’t ask where the third hand comes from– there’s something of a whiff of desperation simultaneously coupled with a complete lack of understanding of why the general public does or doesn’t find the Oscars relevant that really should have been resolved during The Dark Knight “lack o’ Best Picture nom kerfuffle.”
It sounds like a bad idea to me… and it also sounds like a bad idea to Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff who has many thoughts on the subject. I agree with many of them, including the notion that maybe it’ll not turn out to a bad idea.
Their track record at nominating worthy “genre films” for Best Picture does not reinforce that notion however.
UPDATE: The crew at Vox came up with 6 categories to introduce rather than “Best Popular Film” and I’m happy to say it includes one for stunt choreography. I generally am down with all the categories. I think the “Best First Film” would really bring some excitement into the proceedings the same as I see similar awards in other places. The one caveat I’d suggest from chatting about the categories on social media is that the “Best Motion Capture Peformance” should be awarded to the performer and the lead artists/animators. I think that’d be a cool way to remind people of the team creative effort it is.