August 5, 2013

Big Budget Compromises and Stopping the Hate, Incoherence is Thy Name

As The Conjuring crosses the $100 million mark, fans of quality movies have to feel good about it. I have realized long ago that, by and large, big budget summer movies, and studio backed projects at large, are fashioned in a state of compromise. The original creations, rebellious thinking, and unfettered creativity that sprang up in the 1970's is long gone. In its place are big budget features that are built on compromise and target lowest common denominator.

I am not against big budget compromise, but you have to understand that going in. You have to be attuned to smaller details that quality film makers are able to inject to make the been there/done that aspect worthwhile. For example, the recent movie The Wolverine is a fantastically entertaining superhero yarn that has interesting elements of culture clash, haunting pasts, chaos versus order, and the price of immortality tossed in with your straightforward action. It is all right there, are the elements all together and you have what is ostensibly a familiar action film with some interesting elements.

Then there is something like World War Z, a movie based on a popular book. Here is a movie that succeeds (mostly) despite a massive amount of compromise. The book (which I have not yet read) is structured as a series of interviews and flashbacks. Not exactly what you would call a perfect set up for a big budget adaptation. The movie has a big star for the lead and a budget to match, in order to try and guarantee some level of success, or at least investor security, the movie was restructured into a much more straightforward feature and told in a much more traditional fashion.

What does this have to do with The Conjuring and its box office mark? I am not quite sure. Still, the movie is a fantastically told haunting tale that succeeds in its goal of creating a creepy supernatural horror. It is also not based on a famous property. I am happy to see an original film, and a horror film no less, succeed at the summer box office.

All too often I see good, very good, and excellent films falter at the box office. Look at Pacific Rim, for example. There is no reason why that movie should not have been a bigger hit than it is. I keep trying to figure out why it failed. Was it the lack of a big name star? Was it the lack of being based on a property? Was it a studio not pushing and enough? I mean, all I needed to know was giant robots fighting giant masters and I was sold. It could have been just that and I would have been happy. What I got was a lot more. I go a movie that was epic, personal, action packed, scary, and flat out entertaining. It is a movie put together by people who got to play in the big kids toy box and wanted to make an impact. Why did the people not run out in droves?

I probably shouldn't care, it still made respectable money. The problem is that I do care. The less we support endeavors like this, the less often a studio is going to take a chance. This should not have been a chance, it has all the elements for success, but inexplicably the people did not turn out.

Another, even more extreme example is Rob Zombie's latest, The Lords of Salem. A polarizing filmmaker to be sure, but one who makes interesting films, whether you love them or hate them. Here is a movie unlike anything to hit the screen this year, relegated to very limited release, virtually no advertising campaign, and left to die. It is a movie that I loved, weird, creepy, eerie, bizarre, all great thins, yet no one went to see it. At the very leat, it should been given some sort of push to help encourage the curious.

I really don't where I am going with this. I think we movie fans owe it to ourselves and to those who dot know any better to get out there, see movies, seek out movies outside the mainstream and encourage others to go see them. Rather than bitch and moan about how bad movies are, or how you hate remakes, or how bad something looks, go find stuff you like, visit the movies, see a foreign movie, pick something you never heard of, take a chance, and when you find stuff you like, make sure people know about it. Get the word out and encourage people to see the good stuff. Not everything needs to be based on a property. Let's show the suits that we want original movies, something fun, scary, acre ion packed, dramatic, something outside the usual big budget compromises.

I don't care what genre it is, a good movie is a good movie and will stand up, they just need a little help. We movie lovers need to focus our time and energy on promoting what we love rather than what we hate. Sure, we are bound to come across junk along the way, it happens, move on. Not everything needs to be perfect, don't be so quick to nitpick, allow yourself to enjoy.

I swear, the Internet, while helping us discover more awesome films, often becomes an echo chamber of hate. We don't need that. Promote what you love.

Thank you for bearing with my nonsensical rambling. This is what happens with a desire to write and nothing prepared. Perhaps one day I will revisit this and be a little more coherent....

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