Deliver us from stupid

March 27, 2013

studio crap
A couple of weeks ago, someone I know, after scanning the movie listings of a Friday newspaper (and really, I’m dating that person just by identifying them as an actual newspaper reader), asked me, “When will we get some good movies?”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Maybe October.”

And when it happens, inevitably it will have little to do with Hollywood.

Because, really, Hollywood has abandoned the first three-quarters of the year, in terms of releasing films of quality on more than a deeply sporadic basis.

But let’s be real: In truth, Hollywood no longer cares about making good movies. Period. Quality is no longer a consideration. Full stop.

It feels like an almost weekly occurrence, if not a daily one: a breathless press release on the news page of IMDB or a bulletin from The Wrap: Bob Megastar set to star in a megamillion-dollar remake of “Some Inutterable Piece of Crap That Should Never Have Been Made Originally.”

Or Sir Sidney Superstar is onboard to headline as the villain in the latest movie adaptation of “Comic-Book Diaperload.”

Or Bill Upandcomer will be the main attraction in the latest big-screen adaptation of “That Lame ’80s TV Series” that only people under the age of 35 think was good in the first place.

This is what passes for entertainment news from the studios these days. More to the point, this seems to be the sum total of what the major movie studios are passing off as quality Hollywood entertainment. Really – that last phrase is now a painfully laughable oxymoron.


Because, at this point in movie history, the Hollywood studios are to movies what McDonald’s is to cuisine: a factory producing products that are nearly identical in their lack of depth, quality or concern for the viewing audience’s intellect.

The complaint used to be that Hollywood was dumbing things down. Now it’s just plain dumb. It might as well be administering lobotomies in the lobby of theaters as it sells tickets to “Oz the Great and Powerful” or “Jack the Giant Slayer” or “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” or …

Well, I could list every film on the major studio schedule between now and October and not be far off.

And the fact that what passes for the entertainment press (which consists primarily of the blogosphere these days, though even the haughty high-and-mighty New York Times is not immune to this sort of hype) – the fact that they all breathlessly report each new bit of casting and each sick-making new comic-book title and TV adaptation as though it were one for the history books – none of it rises to the level of mind-boggling anymore. It is merely nauseatingly numbing.

Wow – Sir Ben Kingsley as an “Iron Man 3” villain. Golly – Robert Redford in a “Captain America” movie. Oy – Tom Cruise in a movie remake of “The Man from UNCLE” (replacing George Clooney). Urp – yet another remake of “Godzilla,” as though Roland Emmerich’s vomitous 1998 version wasn’t bad enough.

I’ll meet you at the corner of Shameless and Paycheck.

But this has been the direction Hollywood has been heading for the past 10 – if not 20 or even 30 – years. Once it became clear that teen-agers and young adults would pay to see mindless action, horror and comedy films over and over and over again, the studios stopped making anything else. They leave that to independent filmmakers, then either buy the movie for release (occasionally landing an Oscar when something like “Argo” hits) or complain when critics and the Academy give awards to small independent films that actually engage the audience’s whole brain instead of just their id.

Occasionally someone will ask me to define independent film – and I’ll say it’s film that expresses a director’s personal vision, one that means something to the filmmaker other than simply the chance to cash in.

But then I note that, unfortunately, too many makers of independent films wind up doing exactly that: using the success of their personal film to land a gig as shop foreman manufacturing some colossal piece of studio trash. Most recent cases in point: Marc Webb, who went from “(500) Days of Summer” to “The Amazing Spider-man” and now its sequel. Or Colin Trevorrow, who made the quirky but compelling “Safety Not Guaranteed” and who was recently announced to direct “Jurassic Park IV.”

Oops, here’s a bulletin: Critic rants at studios for befouling movie theaters with generic garbage.

That’s not news either.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Until they get worse.

Yes, entropy is the law of the land in Hollywood.

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