Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Film Hate

Can I just talk about hate for a brief moment? I'm not talking about the absence or antithesis of love...I'm just talking about the standard dictionary definition of "intense or passionate dislike." There are some things that just make me really cranky...and while I could just keep 'em to myself, I have a feeling that might be bad for some of my internal organs.

So here comes a short (I hope) rant regarding films.

I don't work in Hollywood, so I have no "insider perspective" on the filmmaking process. I know that films cost a lot of money. I know that they take huge numbers of people working in collaboration to make them. I know that many of the decisions made by film companies revolve around the ability to recoup the money spent and make some profit so that the rich can get richer and produce more films, continuing the business of filmmaking (which helps employ all those people that work on making films). I know that no matter how much "vision" one, single person possesses (whether that's a writer, director, producer, etc.) that vision is going to be worked over a bit by all the other people involved in the filmmaking process...especially co-writers, co-producers, directors, film execs, etc.

And nothing I write on this blog is going to change that. Still, I'm talking about saving my spleen, here.

I HATE that there is so little originality coming out of Hollywood...that so many of the Big Budget Blockbusters are remakes (or "updates") of existing movies. Whether you're talking Straw Dogs or Clash of the Titans, I just feel like slapping people and saying this doesn't need a remake...if you want to introduce an old film to a new crowd, then digitally remaster it and re-release it. Otherwise make your own Goddamn movie, dudes. Aren't people being paid millions of dollars to do these things? And you can't think of an original idea? You suck.

I HATE it when films based on novels written in different time periods, decide to spruce up ("update" again) the material in order to make it more in line with out 21st century wants and perspectives. "Modernizing" it. Look, if you're going to make a live-action version of The Hobbit, then make The Hobbit. Don't make it into something else, restructuring the characters and plot to make it "cooler." If you don't feel like being faithful in your adaptation, then come up with your own original fucking idea for a movie. How many cars do you own?

[and just to add onto that...]

I HATE it when filmmakers choose to make films that use an existing piece of intellectual property (like The Hobbit) and then inject a bunch of random token characters into it because the original IP wasn't diverse enough in terms of gender and race. THERE IS IP OUT THERE THAT FEATURES DIVERSITY, WHY DON'T YOU ADAPT THAT?! There are lots of fairy tale books that feature female protagonists (Shirley Murphy's Soonie and the Dragon comes to mind). Oh, wait...that doesn't have enough blood and guts and combat for you?

Nice little tale. Dragon eats people.
[because bloody violence is what has made The Hobbit a beloved classic of children's literature for decades, right? That and all the songs/poems Tolkien threw in there]

Fine, how about adapting one of Robin McKinley's (award winning) books? How about adapting Jennifer Roberson's Cheysuli saga (when an author gets an eight book series published, maybe there's an audience)? How about adapting the saga of Brynhildr to the screen in a Norse mash-up the same way Ray Harryhausen adapted Perseus and Greek myth in the original Clash of the Titans? Are you just too fucking stupid to do this?

I HATE that so often Hollywood (when it comes to action/fantasy films) seems like the epitome of a "good ol' boys" network where the white, male (straight) hero front-and-center. I'm white AND male AND straight and I get tired of seeing the same old shtick.

You know what I really, REALLY don't want to see? I don't want to go into a screening of Star Wars VII and see three white buddies (two male, one female) going on a fantastic galactic adventure. That was fine in the 1970s, but it was certainly a tired concept by the time Harry Potter rolled into theaters. Give Lupita Nyong'o a kick-ass role as Lando's daughter-turned-space-pirate and let her be the "Han Solo" of the movie.

Oscar winners shouldn't have to play aliens.
Please don't make her a token "new apprentice" of Jedi Master Skywalker with the sole purpose of being killed off by the Big Bad Guy of the film. Please, please, please don't do that. And don't make her an "alien" (non-human), either.

[EDIT from 2016: They made her an alien. Dammit]

Anyway, these are some of the things I'm thinking/fuming about today. Earlier I watched a trailer for the new Hobbit film (I'm not even going to bother with a link...you folks can find it, I'm sure). And it just made me irritated. And then it got me thinking about Hollywood and all these things I "passionately dislike." Things I really can't change or impact or control. Which, BTW, just makes me more irritated.

One of the wonderful things about this RPG thing...the OSR movement, the Indie movement, the DIY-self-publishing thing is how nice it is to have some control and to be able to make shit without being beholden to "money men." I know that what drives the film industry to do things I hate is (for the most part) money. It's the same reason why people choose to live in Paraguay (for those who HAVE a choice): here you can start a business and expect (on average) 10-30% return on your investment annually.

[which is crazy-huge compared to the 5-8% (or 5-10%) you'd expect in the USA. Here, you can recoup your costs after three years and then just profits, baby, ever after. The money doesn't, of course, get reinvested in the country...but who cares when you can afford to send your kids to school in the United States? Just sad, in so many ways...]

People in the self-publishing RPG biz aren't getting rich, clearly, but at least folks are getting a chance to make games (and play games) that they want. If game design is an "artistic" enterprise (and I'd say it is), then at least its not the compromised art of the (establishment) film industry. And that makes it cooler than Hollywood and (for me) mostly "hate-proof."

; )


  1. You forgot about how they dumb everything down in order to appeal to an international audience

    What's sad is it doesn't have to be this way. There are so many factors in Hollywood that center around reducing competition, on both the labor and production sides. Without those in place, we might actually see an abundance of creative film-making, less homogeneity and more niche marketing

    And quit reminding me that I need to work on my game! I swear, every time I read your blog I just beat myself up for being so unproductive

  2. Robert Rodriguez made a movie on a shoe-string back when he graduated from UT. He didn’t even try to get a theatrical release, but made it for the Spanish-speaking direct-to-video market. And Hollywood stood up and took notice.

    Not that it changed anything in Hollywood, but I’m not sure it will ever change in the ways we might like it to. The point is that you don’t have to be Hollywood or beholden to big money to make a good movie and for people to see it. How much easier would it be today than it was when Robert did it?

    Don’t waste energy on hating Hollywood. Look for the good stuff that is out there but harder to find. Or make good stuff yourself.

    But, truthfully, I’m talking out of my hat. I just got back from Interstellar, and I really enjoyed it. ^_^

  3. perhaps my hate is less expansive than yours. Yes there is a lot of stuff I could hate, but it is just as easy to ignore it and not bother hating. But I must say, I was saddened to learn that The Hobbit was going to be a trilogy. I mean really. The Hobbit was almost written to be the perfect two-hour movie. Self-contained, a beginning and an ending, perfect. But I guess Hollywood abhors endings. As long as there is one more shark to be jumped. Oh well, I dont have to watch The Hobbit, do I ? I can always ignore it. So far I have and I guess I will continue ignoring it.

  4. Ironic that you hate how film adaptations are being arbitrarily changed to fit modern culture (action, blood, violence, etc), but then call for arbitrarily putting in non-white, non-male lead characters because you feel that isn't a part of modern culture anymore.

    You want a black female lead simply because they're black and female. You want to make Star Wars, something that we're asked to believe existed long ago in a galaxy far away, look like it exists in post-Obama America where "equality" and "fairness" are the pop-culture buzz-words. You want modern political correctness (particularly left-wing correctness) to be a part of Star Wars.

    Sorry, but you come off like a massive hypocrite to me. I certainly agree with the first half of your comment, but leave out modern political correctness as well.

    1. @ Gael:

      Perhaps I wasn't clear; I certainly don't see a discrepancy between A) not wanting modification of existing works (like Tolkien), and B) being more inclusive when creating new, original works (like SW7).

      And I'm not calling for political correctness (nor a black, female lead, for that matter). I am calling for a little originality when it comes to protagonists. And inclusion/diversity is a nice way to effect that change of pace, especially in the fantasy/SciFi genre (and Star Wars specifically) where we've seen a predominance of white, male heroes.

    2. "And inclusion/diversity is a nice way to effect that change of pace, especially in the fantasy/SciFi genre (and Star Wars specifically) where we've seen a predominance of white, male heroes."

      Yes, but even with good intentions can you not see how that would come off to many as simply political pandering in today's racially-charged climate?

      With the Ferguson and Trayvon Martin situations, putting more African Americans in more prominent roles just looks like you're using your film to make a political statement. And more than anything else, that is what bothers me about film-making: using a form of escapist entertainment as a place to toot your political position.

      And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't have more diversity. I'm just saying that the timing is bad. Do we want to look back in 50 years at Star Wars Episode 7 and think: "oh yeah, that's when the whole black rioting was going on in America, and they were pressured into having more prominent roles for black actors".

      No, I want a movie to stand the test of time that is 100% blind to politics, I want to leave the theater feeling every time like I left the effed up world we live in today. Not be reminded of it, no matter how you feel about current politics.

    3. @ Gael:

      Mmm...I think this is an apples to verduras comparison. I really don't see being more inclusive in an original film story to be any type of pandering to racial minorities that have suffered tragedies and/or injustice (whether one considers it real or perceived). I think it's a reflection of our current societal make-up, NOT a sign of our "racially charged climate." I don't think there's much danger of Star Wars being to high-brow or political in its "message."

  5. The extended Hobbit doesn't bother me as much because Tolkien is on the record saying later on that he would have gone back and re-wrote it to fit it in better with the Lord of the Rings and what was going on at that time. It is really "The Hobbit + Appendices".

    Yes, there are more than a few changes to the story even as Tolkien wrote it, but no adaptation is going to go without some changes in it. I really like that we get more back-story on Sauron and the tie-in to LotR. If it just stood alone as a single short movie, relying entirely on the original novel, I think it would have felt lacking coming after the first trilogy.

    I recently use the reading order calculator to read the entire Middle Earth saga in order. It is quite a read, but really fleshes out the whole story from start to finish. I hope PJ or someone else goes back and does some stuff from the Silmarillion. The epicness of those stories make The Hobbit and LotR look like small-fry.

  6. Oh, you can find that calculator here:

    It takes a few hours work putting all the margin notes in, but it's worth it.