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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolves?

In today’s world, or at least in Hollywood, movies are made by large studios. These studios along with many other non-filmic companies form conglomerates called corporations. In a previous entry, About the Indie Film, I spoke about the difficulties in labeling a film as independent. The economic gears and systems of today’s world are so intrinsically complicated that the only way to survive is to conglomerate into a corporation. Is there anything wrong with this? Definitely not, if a good film has to sacrifice the honor of being called Indie for it to still exist I’ll call it a studio film just so I can see it. Plus without the money coming from corporations, we wouldn’t see Iron Man kick the shit out of the Iron Monger this past summer. (Although, I could have saved myself from watching the Hulk and Abomination make loud noises in the rooftops of New York). We would also not have a franchise like Batman, which has given us two continuities to choose from: Nolan’s physiological thrillers or the highly stylistic Burton/Schumacher pieces of the last decade. What about Wall-E? Without the Disney Empire there is no way we could enjoy animated films like Wall-E or Bolt. Nevertheless something has been lost. For every one new original piece we are getting a dozen rehashes of old stuff, and the value of a lot of previous originality has been lost.

Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Wall-E; these are all great studio films, and they could have not been made unless a studio had done them. It is when a studio steps out of its territory when problems start arising. Several films come out every year that studios should not be releasing. This year was no exception. here are a few.

Anticipating the success of Juno, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist had to be produced. Both films offer an Indie feel to their audiences, and in the past only a small independent crew would have ever ventured into producing a film about teenage pregnancy or about “wild night” in the music scene of New Jersey. The problem here is that instead of being made by an underground group of people who probably suffered the hardships of both situations, such movies are being written by office desk writers who know little of either situation. Yes, a former prostitute wrote Juno; but street touch did not go past script level. Lots of money went into the production of both movies but they were marketed as independent films. Instead of getting the fruitful flavor of an Indie film we were expecting when we walked in we walked out with a bland taste of wanabe quirkiness. Nevertheless, both films were enjoyable up to a point, and who knows maybe in the future we will see a good product come out of this new Indie looking style. However there is one new style, corporations have created this year, which I could live without: the color saturated neuron-popping mesh that was Speed Racer

Speed Racer's plot, if you could find any, dealt around a family that wanted to keep a small home owned business a family home owned business. There used to be a time when films with such plots were created by small family owned business, and thus meant something. It was a small statement of , “stick it to the Man” but not anymore. Speed Racer was created for the sole reason to make money of nostalgic baby boomers to take themselves and their kids to see a rehash of an old and not very good cartoon. Corporations have begun to exploit and make profit from what once defined a product anti-corporate.

Similarly, our enjoyment of high-end art works has been blended down and spoon-fed to the masses. Call me an elitist, but it's true. A couple of decades back, an incredibly blood-filled musical was made, by who was then considered one of theater’s most avant-garde writers. I’m talking about "Sweeney Todd" by Steven Sondheim, based of an incredibly obscure novel/play of the same name. The musical was of course praised by art critics and was soon moved up into becoming something a little bit more commercial: a Broadway musical. Three decades later and the show is revived as a Hollywood Holiday movie by no other than Tim Burton. Is there a problem with this? Well the film was indeed a beautiful film but something on it felt terribly wrong. First of all it lacks the unique Timburtoness of other Burton films, and at the same time it lacks the obscurity of an intended only for theater buffs movie. It just lags in the middle quite not being anything. Like other things corporations have stolen from us, it lacks flavor.

1 comment:

Wilder Shaw said...

Interesting, but I thought Juno was a quality movie...

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