Movie Madness
November 18, 2008

mad-hatter

K: Goddamnit, the chick who’s writing Burton’s Alice in Wonderland wrote Homeward Bound and The Lion King and the Teen Wolf television show and My Little Pony and Friends. The Lion King, I suppose, is better than your typical Disney movie (at least since ’94), but all Burton really needs to do to get awesome again is hire a good fucking writer.

S: I feel like the movies have really, really minimized what they think the role of the writer in a good movie is. As if you can get by on having a recognizable cast, a noteable art director, and a whimisical director who will make the movie visually appealing despite it empty characters, and gutted story. I can’t tell if it’s ignorance of arrogance. Whichever it is, I really wish they’d stop it.

K: It’s both. That’s exactly what it is. And when so much money becomes involved of course it’s the writing that suffers first. The ten thousand suits who threw in their money want the broadest appeal possible and the biggest return on their investment.

The second thing Burton needs to do to get awesome again is make a small movie.

S: K’s Plan for Rehabilitating the Career of Tim Burton. I like it. It’s like the New Deal, for one very small slice of Hollywood.

I just don’t understand where the disconnect between quality and quantity happened. Because the good writers are reduced to working on very small “independent” (I put quotes around that because buying independent film houses has become such a Hollywood executive pastime that I really no longer know whether I’m truly watching an Indie film or not anymore) films in order to get enough creative control to properly tell a story, the executives tell themselves over and over again that said writers don’t have “broad appeal,” despite the fact that the market (through the whims of the execs) is determining where the talent goes, not the other way around. So when the opportunity to put a Good Writer on a Big Movie comes around, the execs think it won’t have any mainstream appeal and instead focus on casting and money and names and art direction as if it’s enough to make up for the lack of plot.

As the consumers of movies, I feel like there should be a way to demand to have quality put back into films — I mean, as recently as 15 or so years ago you had big summer blockbusters that, while not the most contemplative pieces ever committed to celluloid, were well written, well-crafted, well acted, and awesome. I don’t understand why we can’t just go back to that. I don’t understand how to convince the Hollywood bigwigs that we are really, really, really tired of having to watch great stories be gutted by bad writers.

K: To be fair, there are interesting people making big movies now. Take Favreau and Iron Man, Nolan and The Dark Knight, Del Toro and Hell Boy, Marc Forster and Bond, but these are all slightly older guys who started out making smaller movies in the 90s. Same with the other big names who make more personal films like P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, Linklater, Fincher, etc. All these guys either write their movies themselves or demand a good script, but they’ve been adopted by the studios. There hasn’t been a boom of talent like the one that gave us these guys in ten years, so we’re not seeing any young dynamos making smaller pictures that blow us away. We need some fresh talent, young blood.

And here’s the quality control strategy: skip High School Musical and go see Slumdog Millionaire.

S: Well, I’ve never seen a High School Musical movie, though I still think it might be a truly hilarious drunk/stoned adventure one cold, cold winter evening.

Slumdog Millionarie looks awesome. Really awesome.

And you’re right. You are. But it feels like Hollywood is no longer interested in fostering talent whatsoever. It’s frustrating because it keeps the entire industry stuck in a kind of forced inertia. The guys who have worked and earned their right to hire great writers, or who have become great writers, do what they can do, but if you’re not nurturing the next generations of standout talents, how can you ever hope for the industry as a whole to survive and thrive? Which is, I guess, why we see television taking such a marked turn in a positive direction; writers who are frustrated with their inability to get anyone in the movie industry to listen to them and their ideas are turning to the small screen instead, where the plethora of channels and time slots (because, really, let’s be honest with ourselves, there is a LOT of crap TV that gets put on air for an episode or two every season) give them far more opportunity to experiment with their ideas and more time and leniency, if they can get past the initial chopping block, to develop intricate plots and characters. The question, as I see it, is whether the movie industry can ever get back to a place where it’s willing to give these guys (and girls) a chance again.

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