Has Originality died in Hollywood?

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Dac, Nov 21, 2009.

  1. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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    I'd argue that the 1994-2004 period produced a far better average quality of film (1998 and 1999, particularly were fantastic years). But, then, I prefer the classical style prominent in the Golden Age and around the turn of the millennium to the "modern" style of the 70s. Of the movies you named, I see merit only in The Godfather, which I nonetheless didn't like; movies from the 70s tend to be visually and morally ugly.
     
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    It depends what you mean by 'originality' and 'mainstream cinema.'

    Since the success of Jaws and Star Wars, as well as the failure of Heaven's Gate and a number of other last gasps of the short-lived New Hollywood movement that began in the late 1960s, Hollywood has been entirely dependent on high-concept spectacle pictures and franchises, as well as highly formulaic genre pictures (think of the romantic comedy genre) that are made on the basis of who is starring in them rather than their story content or cinematic style.

    In that sense, originality in Hollywood is long dead.
     
  3. FPAlpha

    FPAlpha Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    I think originality has died or at least been affected by the blockbuster concept.

    These movies are expensive to make.. huge actors demanding salaries in the tens of millions or a cut of the profit (sometimes both) and expensive sets/FX add quickly to the cost to a point where we have long ago broken the 100 million $ bar and are scratching the 200 million $.

    These costs need to be brought in and i believe the formula is that it needs to make at least twice the production amount domestically (without DVD and foreign income) to be considered a success.

    So movie studio CEOs look at this business as they would with any other industrial product.. investment vs. profitability. Now movies being in the art department it is notoriously difficult to judge what a good and successful movie entails and if it will perform well.
    Result of this is that movie CEOs prefer to play it very safe with such big projects.. if it's not a proven franchise (Indiana Jones, Star Wars, James Bond etc..) or has a big name attached to it (Will Smith, Tom Cruise etc.) they are very reluctant to open up their wallet.

    So we get remakes, adaptions, sequels galore and many times it proves to be a financial success yet sometimes the audience simply rejects that formula when the movie is really badly done (taste varies of course).

    Originality only, if that, exists with smaller movie companies or companies who were explicitly formed to provide such movies (Miramax for example) but with mainstream July 4th or Christmas releases you can't expect an original story.. you may be surprised from time to time but the general rule is that you will get something familiar to please you.
     
  4. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, at least insofar as the big studios are concerned. Rationale follows.

    Because Hollywood has gotten it into it's head that people go to the movies for comfort food. Movies that are based upon already proven formulas and concepts. Of course this doesn't mean all remakes are guaranteed successes. There are more failures than hits. But the hits tend to hit big. And the failures do well on DVD, so there's less of a gamble.

    As for "adaptations" I don't include that in this argument. Books and plays have been a primary source of movie stories since dramatic film began. This is different than making a new version of "The Honeymooners", or remaking a film only 5 years after the original came out (which happened with a comedy film earlier this year, the title I forget), or releasing Friday the 13th Part XXXIII.

    Ask the folks who made Paranormal Activity. Yes, there is most definitely money to be made. Unfortunately, no one is able to predict anymore what will be a hit. Jennifer's Body was written by the Oscar winner behind Juno, starred arguably Hollywood's top sex symbol, and got half decent reviews. And it tanked. So did Watchmen, which had the strongest advance word of mouth of any film in recent history. James Cameron's Avatar could be as big a hit as Titanic, or go down in history as this generation's Heaven's Gate, regardless of the reviews. The tastes of today's audiences has changed, and it's not possible to forecast what they want anymore. However, they do seem to be more willing to go to something like Saw VI, so therefore the odds of a cash-strapped studio investing $100 million into something like that are better than injecting a similar sum (or even $25 million) into something brand new and original (unless you happen to be a big name, of course).

    It won't stop original films and adaptations from being made, of course. Paranormal Activity and Slumdog Millionaire proved you can score major hits with them. And there is a lot of prestige behind winning critical and Oscar accolades for something like There Will Be Blood ... even if only 300 people actually bother going to see the thing. But if a studio wants to make money, they're going to put out a movie starring Jim Carrey doing variations on the same schtick he's been doing for 20 years because people know what to expect.

    Alex
     
  5. Broccoli

    Broccoli Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Whaaaa?

    The "age of the sequel" started as early as the '30s with [something] of Frankenstein and [something] of Dracula.
     
  6. NileQT87

    NileQT87 Commander Red Shirt

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    The sequelitis of the '10s to '50s makes today's sequelitis PALE in comparison.

    You really have no clue just how many "Son of...", "...meets...", "Return of...", "House of...", and upteenth-sequel franchises there were. The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost, The Mummy's Curse, Frankenstein meets Wolfman, The Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Dracula... Getting the point? Béla Lugosi spent most of the rest of his life stuck in that Dracula costume--and then ended up with Ed Wood, that bastion of originality. ::snicker::

    Let's put it this way... There have been at least 2 remakes of Freaks, the most unremakeable film ever. Though they bare very little in common with the original. And Freaks already was based on a short story and meant to be a Lon Chaney, Sr./Harry Earles circus freak horror film reunion (not Browning's first). Speaking of which, Lon Chaney, Sr. and Harry Earles even reprised their roles in a talkie remake of The Unholy Three (1925 and 1930). Look at how many times Harry Earles (best known as one of the Lollipop Guild Munchkins) played a baby or a midget pretending to be a baby (most of his career). ;) I actually wonder if Baby Herman (Roger Rabbit) was inspired by Harry Earles with the cigar-smoking baby gag.

    Remaking silent films into talkies was mined for all its worth at the beginning of the talkies period. Often, they even brought back the same cast!

    How about the amazing journey of Little Shop of Horrors from cheap horror schlock filmed in 2 days, to musical parody, back to film of said musical parody? LOL. Ditto with Hairspray.

    Did you know that an English version and a Spanish version of Dracula were shot at the same time on the same set? That was apparently common practice in the '30s. They reused sets like crazy. Low-budget films were more prevalent then than they are now and sets, costumes, etc... from bigger pictures would find their way into them. I mean, when was the last time a film that actually gets seen was made in 2 days (and has Jack Nicholson, nonetheless)?

    The amount of films produced each year has fallen dramatically. People were literally pumping out multiple parts in a franchise released within the same year!

    Judy Garland romanced Mickey Rooney in 8 films alone. And that's on top of the 16 Andy Hardy films (I've seen several). Even Boys Town, a legendary Oscar-winning drama, had a sequel (Men of Boys Town).

    Taken a look at Shirley Temple's filmography lately? LOL. Formula! Interchangeable! Add Elvis Presley, Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland, Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Abbot & Costello, etc... Those days were the height of formula.

    Did you know that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met while filming a formulaic teen flick? It was a college kids movie! And Desi was there to pimp his conga drum act that was a dance craze in the 1940s. The film isn't a far cry from Frankie & Annette. Neither are the Mickey & Judy films ("Let's put on a show!").

    Look at how many times Kevin Corcoran did films with Tommy Kirk (5 films--offhand: The Swiss Family Robinson, Old Yeller and Babes in Toyland). Many of those were as Kirk's little brother.

    It was more prominent THEN than it is now. People would really be laughing if today's stars were doing 8 films beside the same romantic interest. You can get away with a series or maybe 2 or 3... But not like they used to. Shelley Fabares was in 3 Elvis films. Teri Garr (yes, that Teri "roll in ze hay" Garr) was a dancer in 7 Elvis films.

    Babes in Toyland wasn't the first Babes in Toyland (a.k.a. March of the Wooden Soldiers). Alice in Wonderland wasn't the first Alice in Wonderland (in fact, the 1931 film pretty much informed much of what became costume design trial and error for Babes in Toyland and The Wizard of Oz--not to mention Charlotte Henry being both Alice and Little Bo Peep). And not to mention that Babes in Toyland (1934)--not only was it a well-known operetta, it was a Laurel & Hardy franchise film! And not only that, they managed to plug the Three Little Pigs and Mickey Mouse!

    There are a gazillion Peter Pans out there dating from the silent era. And then there's Hook, Return to Neverland and at least 2 television cartoons.

    L. Frank Baum had his own studio to pump out silent Oz films (there were 14 Oz books by him alone with several spin-offs set in the same universe like Queen Zixi of Ix and Dot and Tot in Merryland--and there have been dozens more by other authors and many, many film adaptions).

    Mickey Rooney's 2nd longest career in Hollywood (after Milton Berle) is the story of sequelitis, starting in the silent era. And the silent Mickey McGuire shorts that started his career were another company's answer to Our Gang (The Little Rascals). Pretty much a direct rip-off.

    Originality has never been Hollywood's strong suit.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  7. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually, I do.

    And I think there's a difference between innumerable horror film sequels and action-adventure tentpole film sequels, and that this is an interesting recent trend. (The successor of the horror film sequels of yesteryear is probably the innumerable number of sequels slasher films make and the like, I'd suppose.)

    I'm not entirely sure why that is always interpreted to mean that just now Hollywood has got into the sequel business. Is there some mandatory straw man we all must slay?
     
  8. NileQT87

    NileQT87 Commander Red Shirt

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    They weren't just horror films. Andy Hardy, etc... were family films.

    And as I pointed out, even Oscar winners like Boys Town were getting sequels.

    Remakes were more prevalent, IMO, then, simply due to the number of films being made then in comparison to now. Look up any piece of classical literature and notice when most of the film versions were made.

    For example--Huckleberry Finn (non-Tom Sawyer versions):

    * Huck Finn, a 1937 film produced by Paramount
    * The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a 1939 film starring Mickey Rooney
    * The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a 1954 film starring Thomas Mitchell and John Carradine produced by CBS ([2])
    * The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a 1960 film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Eddie Hodges and Archie Moore
    * The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a 1968 animated television series for children
    * Hopelessly Lost, a 1972 Soviet film
    * Huckleberry Finn, a 1974 musical film
    * Huckleberry Finn, a 1975 ABC movie of the week with Ron Howard as Huck Finn
    * Huckleberry Finn, a 1976 Japanese anime with 26 episodes
    * Huckleberry Finn and His Friends, a 1979 television series starring Ian Tracey
    * Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a 1985 television movie
    * The Adventures of Huck Finn, a 1993 film starring Elijah Wood and Courtney B. Vance

    Or Alice in Wonderland (non-theater/non-porn):

    * Alice in Wonderland (1903 film), silent film
    * Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1910 film), silent film
    * Alice in Wonderland (1915 film), silent film
    * Alice in Wonderland (1931 film)
    * Alice in Wonderland (1933 film)
    * Alice in Wonderland (1949 film), part live-action
    * Alice in Wonderland (1951 film), animation film from Disney
    * Alice in Wonderland in Paris, 1966 animation film
    * Alice in Wonderland (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?), 1966 animation television movie
    * Alice in Wonderland (1966 film), made-for-TV movie, directed by Jonathan Miller.
    * Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972 film), musical motion picture
    * Alice (1981 film)
    * Alisa v Zazerkal, 1981 animation film
    * Fushigi no Kuni no Alice, 1983 anime adaptation
    * Alice in Wonderland (1985 film), television movie
    * Alice in Wonderland (1986 TV serial), 4 x 30 minute BBC TV adaptation, written and directed by Barry Letts
    * Neco z Alenky (1988 film), surreal film mixed with stop motion animation by Jan Švankmajer. Released on DVD in English as "Alice" by First Run Features.
    * Alice in Wonderland (1999 film), television movie
    * Alice in Wonderland (2010 film), a Disney film, directed by Tim Burton.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  9. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Granted, but I wanted to make an observation about those specifically, sorry if I'm not clearer. There are family films with sequels today as well, naturally, but that's still not the specific kind of sequel I'm talking about and so it was sort of a pointless list.

    Whether one can really consider films based on classic literature as remakes is debateable. In some cases, for example, the makers of the new film may be ignorant of the existence of a previous film, depending on how obscure and/or foreign it is (there are many, many Hamlets, for example, and even more if you include works loosely based on it like The Bad Sleep Well). How many people who worked on Bela Lugosi's Dracula saw Nosferatu? And Nosferatu is just the oldest Dracula film to survive - there's another even older film that did not.

    Another example, Wyler's Ben-Hur is a remake in addition to adaption because he'd worked on the previous film and consciously draws on it, but neither his film nor the earlier one was a remake of the first Ben-Hur, which was basically just a recording of the stage play.

    It's easier to define remakes when based on a copyrighted source - once we get public domain material and any ambituous guy with a camera can churn one out, the concept of 'remake' becomes a tad more opaque.

    I can play this game too but I'm not a big fan of it.
     
  10. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

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    The action-adventure tentpole film sequel did exist, but was limited inasmuch as action-adventure tentpole films were few and far between. King Kong, the only notably successful action-adventure film of the period resulted in the then-moderately successful sequel The Son of Kong.

    Non-tentpole action-adventure films also saw sequels. The Shadow Strikes resulted in the sequel International Crime, The Shadow Returns resulted in Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady, 1918's Tarzan of the Apes led to seven similarly silent sequels, Tarzan the Ape Man was followed by eleven sequels, later Tarzan series recorded five, six, two, and three entries, Jungle Jim was succeeded by twelve sequels, etc.
     
  11. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    In the discussion of move series like "Andy Hardy," I would point out that the business of quickly made, inexpensive and usually unsophisticated light entertainment movies largely transferred over to television in the 1950s, so I think it's hard to compare the pre- and post-tv movie industries.


    Or variety, certainly. I was looking at figures on this site. Look at the trend for the top five pictures over these decades:

    1969
    1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    2. The Love Bug
    3. Midnight Cowboy
    4. Easy Rider
    5. Hello Dolly!

    1979
    1. Kramer vs. Kramer
    2. Star Trek the Motion Picture
    3. The Jerk
    4. Rocky II
    5. Alien

    1989
    1. Batman
    2. Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
    3. Lethal Weapon 2
    4. Back to the Future Part II
    5. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

    1999
    1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
    2. The Sixth Sense
    3. Toy Story 2
    4. Austin Powers 2
    5. The Matrix

    Now, it looks like the top movies this year will be a Transformers sequel, a Twilight sequel, a Harry Potter sequel, a Star Trek sequel (yes, a re-boot, but a new entry in an established series), a couple of original animated movies, and The Hangover. The trend seems definitely toward sequels of successful movies and younger audiences. Not toward the kind of movie I like, necessarily, but the competition for the entertainment dollar is a lot different than it was when the Hollywood studios were set up. TV, home video, video games etc. have radically changed the market. Big, safe, unadventurous movies to (hopefully) tent-pole some smaller "prestige" pictures may be the price to pay for not having a drastically downsized motion picture industry.

    --Justin
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
  12. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Vielen dank for responding in context. Kong is interesting because Hollywood at the time had considered its success something of a fluke and had a sequel quickly cranked out to capitalise on it (either that or the DVD extras steered me wrong, I blame DVD extras for all my failings as a person).

    This is a rather different attitude from cranking out a film as the next stage in a franchise, expected to make as much or more money than the original - as J.T.B. rather well observed better than I had.
     
  13. Broccoli

    Broccoli Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Bela Lugosi only played Dracula once on film.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    What about the Abbot and Costello movie he was in? And, in Plan 9 from Outer Space, he's pretty much playing Dracula.
     
  15. chrisspringob

    chrisspringob Commodore Commodore

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    Here's just the last 20 years, number of sequels in the top 5 movies for the year:

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/

    1990 0
    1991 1
    1992 3
    1993 0
    1994 0
    1995 2
    1996 0
    1997 1
    1998 0
    1999 3
    2000 1
    2001 1
    2002 3
    2003 2
    2004 3
    2005 2
    2006 2
    2007 4
    2008 2
    2009 3 (tentative)

    Definitely an upward trend.
     
  16. stoneroses

    stoneroses Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That is what I would say too.
     
  17. Thespeckledkiwi

    Thespeckledkiwi Vice Admiral

    One of the things is; studios don't really care for characterization.

    Look at the reviews for I Want To Believe (X-Files 2).

    What a great movie that was because of the characterization and the development of character. Same with Wall-E.

    Hollywood wants these paper thin characters that are cookie-cutter for every role with no room to expand.
     
  18. Broccoli

    Broccoli Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I forgot about the Abbot and Costello parody, but I wouldn't necessarily count Plan 9, though he was a staple of B-horror films.
     
  19. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Well, I'd hardly count Plan 9 as a performance of Legosi's at all, really. So much of his "role" is performed by a double or manufactured by the (not so) careful re-use of the same brief Legosi footage over and over again.
     
  20. NileQT87

    NileQT87 Commander Red Shirt

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    By Dracula, I mean, he was playing Dracula when he wasn't even playing Dracula. He was typecast and his other films didn't go very far to make you forget it. And he did play Dracula. A lot. Before and after the 1931 film.

    You're forgetting that most of Lugosi's stage work was playing Dracula.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2009