by Michael Bowen, Luke Baumgarten, Ted S. McGregor Jr., Sheri Boggs, Marty Demarest and Ed Symkus & r & & r & Michael Bowen & r & Inlander Arts Editor & r & Favorite Film of 2005: Crash & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & e-emphasize the writer. The screenplay categories correlate with the Best Picture nominees even more than the acting nominations do. There's a reason, and it goes back to Aristotle: Story first, and then we'll see about who gets attached to the project. (And no, I don't have a screenplay to shop around.) Pay bigger salaries, but for polished scripts, not just treatments -- and no more writing by committee.
Releasing so many sequels and remakes because they've got name recognition among baby boomers is a case of allowing marketing to wag the dog. Have something original first before you market it. The Dukes of Hazzard was a stupid idea before anybody even thought of it.
Stop emulating old-style Democrats who see problems and throw money at them. Bigger-budget movies won't solve the current slump. Three of this year's Best Picture nominees -- Capote, Crash and Good Night, and Good Luck. -- had production costs of around $7 million each; Brokeback cost twice that much. Sure, none's a blockbuster -- but with the relatively low indie-standard marketing and distribution costs, they've still returned a nice profit, with those four films each earning between $23 million and $75 million so far. This year's only studio nominee, Munich, cost 10 times as much to make and was a box-office loser. Everybody wants to win the lottery with a Revenge of the Sith ($113 million to make, $380 million at the box office). But even this year's very bankable fourth-place flick, War of the Worlds, returned $234 million on production costs of $132 million; add on big-time marketing, and suddenly smaller movies look safer and very nearly as promising.
Day-and-date release is an opportunity, not a threat. In terms of technological and distribution capability, the day is not far off when the digital release will be available right after the final cut is made. Some movies -- smaller, psychological, bereft of exploding Hummers -- will actually look better in the home theaters and portable gizmos of 10 years from now. Others -- capitalizing on all the subtlety that every viewer's inner preteen can summon -- will simply look better on a giant multiplex screen. Hollywood needs to market both demographics. George Clooney already makes an Ocean's Twelve so he can then afford to be in a Syriana; the rest of the industry will follow suit. And 2005 -- the year of dark, political indie nominees -- will be a year that helped kick-start that trend.
Ed Symkus & r & Inlander Film Critic & r & Favorite Film of 2005: Munich & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f I ran Hollywood, I'd make a lot more money than I'm making now. And I would put it to good use. I would set out to make myself happy, then follow that by making the rest of the world a better place.
My wife and I would get a little place with a picture window view of that giant Hollywood sign on the hill. We don't like big houses, because we're messy. But we both like the Hollywood sign. We would each get a sensible, yet kinda slick automobile (with an amazing sound system). And personal trainers. And a couple of dogs.
That's when I would get to that "better world" thing.
I would put Ellen Barkin in more movies. Yes, my wife knows I have a crush on her. I would open a theater that would only show Ken Russell films. I would have lunch with Terry Gilliam and give him total freedom to make anything he wanted. I would heavily fine any director who uses a pop song behind a montage in a film. A second offense would quintuple the fine. You don't want to know what a third would do. I would stop the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, then send someone to pick up Keith Richards and bring him to the set -- no excuses accepted -- where he would play Johnny Depp's father.
But first, I would personally visit Peter and Bobby Farrelly and make damn sure that they get cooking on their Three Stooges film.
Marty Demarest & r & Inlander Contributor & r & Favorite Film of 2005: A History of Violence & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ollywood is bloated and out of touch. Give up on the hideous computer-generated epics. Make Peter Jackson take a vacation; his King Kong felt like the enormous placenta trailing Lord of the Rings. Lock him in his Hobbit hole until he remembers how to do more than string together digitally rendered clich & eacute;s. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are lost causes. This year proved that they can only work with computer programs (spaceships, aliens, Tom Cruise), not humans.
In a year when no film was truly good, A History of Violence stands out simply because it is brief, surprising and well crafted -- just the kind film Hollywood should aspire to make.
A History of Violence was directed by David Cronenberg, an old-school horror master who knows how to keep his audience viscerally involved, even when dealing with philosophical topics. He also cast strong performers -- particularly Monica Bello and Viggo Mortensen -- who are actors with lives that are rooted in the reality of their characters. The result is a terse hour-and-a-half that moves like the wind, revealing the surprising amounts of violence woven into the fabric of daily life.
Meanwhile, the only surprise I got from Brokeback Mountain was how many women gay men have sex with. But then, director Ang Lee chose a force of heterosexuals to make his movie. Certainly there must be a few genuinely queer actors and writers lurking in Hollywood's A-list closets. Getting them involved would have made the movie's sanctimonious publicity easier to swallow, and might have yielded genuine insights instead of a gender-bent Harlequin Romance.
Luke Baumgarten & r & Inlander Film Critic & r & Favorite Film of 2005: Crash & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f I ran Hollywood, I'd be all, "Grow up, you babies." Pissing and moaning about Bubble and Soderberg's underhanded one-man crusade to destroy the studio system ... he's not the problem -- you are. You studios, so married to your distribution methods that you don't see the writing on the wall. Writing that reads: "technology is rendering your demand-manufacturing, choice-limiting, trickle-it-out-over-time b.s. not simply obsolete, but ineffective." You guys aren't the monolithic purveyors of taste you used to be. Telling people what they should watch, when they should watch it and on what format it should be watched isn't compelling people to the theaters anymore. Your numbers are down big-time, they have been for a while, and they will continue to decline unless you understand us, the new consumers.
People want choice. Snack on that for a second. Some people either don't like or are ambivalent about herding themselves into multiplexes to watch films with 300 other sweaty mouth breathers. Let's face it: People are annoying. Sometimes it's best if they're avoided. In such cases, I don't want to wait six months after the release to do it.
But you're worried about your bottom line, right? That's fine. This is business. I get it. How about this: Want to help your bottom line? Stop spending $50 million on marketing. Make films that don't require conspicuous branding (sequels), deception (Freedomland) and coercion (anything by Uwe Boll) to drive buzz. That way, when you release the films simultaneously to theaters, DVD, cable and broadband, you won't have the same costs to recoup. No, you'll never upstage Titanic's gross numbers, but if that's all you're out for, then you're a worthless human being. Try this on for size: Make films that are so good, people are more stoked after they've seen it. That's viral marketing, kids, and it's free.
There are fewer impediments everyday to the simultaneous release of films in all kinds of different media. Technology is a tool of liberation, and people want to be free. If I ran Hollywood, I'd be a liberator. People would love me, and their love would confer a ton of money.
Sheri Boggs & r & Former Inlander Managing Editor & r & Favorite Film of 2005: Me and You and Everyone We Know & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f I ran Hollywood, I'd move over and give the keys to Miranda July. Of course my vision of Hollywood is entirely dependent on whether Ms. July even wants anything to do with a multi-billion-dollar industry. From making experimental videos in her bedroom to performing spoken word in punk venues around the Northwest to last year's sweetly odd feature length debut, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July is the epitome of DIY in action. Making it big (and winning major awards at both Sundance and Cannes constitutes "making it big") naturally implies the inevitable loss of control. Suddenly there are investors to appease and stars' asses to kiss. "No thanks," July would say, shrugging with charming diffidence.
But what if Hollywood were the kind of place where someone like July could be run the show? Before those of you raised on the blockbusters-and-sex model of cinematic consumption start freaking out, consider some of Me and You and Everyone We Know's more memorable moments. A man sets his own hand on fire. There's a car chase (sort of). A goldfish bites it on Portland asphalt. A woman totally stalks the object of her affection. And in one of the movie's final scenes -- a simple moment of approach and surrender -- is actually one of the sexiest things I saw on screen all year. With July in charge, ordinary people would once again be considered beautiful, grit and resourcefulness would triumph over absurdly larded budgets, and originality would kick imitation (and the scourge of "remakes") straight to the curb.
Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & Inlander Editor & r & Favorite Film of 2005: Wallace & amp; Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ("I'm just crackers about cheese!") & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or once, Hollywood actually put out some decent films in 2005 -- Syriana; Good Night, and Good Luck.; The Constant Gardener -- reminding me of the films of the 1970s, which were challenging and topical. Still, Hollywood is coming off a bad box office year. The studio suits will probably read the results as proof that people want more escapism, and don't want to be confronted with realism in the theaters. That will, of course, be wrong. Aside from making too many asinine films, usually based on a cheesy 1970s TV series, and way too many useless sequels, Hollywood is eating its young in the way it markets DVDs and in the way it screens its films.
Right now, you can have a better experience watching a film at home. The DVDs contain bonus features, and often are tagged as the "Director's Cut," with the implication being that they are much better than what was released to all those suckers in the theaters. And if you still decide to go to the movies, and after you pay your $8, you have to sit there and watch 20 minutes of advertisements -- again, something you don't have to do at home. This is because the exhibitors have such a hard time making a profit.
I say exhibitors should rethink their entire approach, and go to the past to build a stronger future. In the 1940s, you'd get a newsreel, a cartoon and previews. Today, instead of a bunch of ads and previews for movies you'll never see, you could get a DVD-type featurette, like an interview with a movie star, a "How'd they do that?" take on a special effect or a scene from an old classic film. Then you could throw in a CGI cartoon and maybe an indie short. I'm sure there are tons of other innovative tweaks that could be made, but the idea is to make a trip to the movies surprising and unique, the way it used to be.