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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Two Thoughtful Assessments of What’s Wrong With Movies

posted by Nell Minow

I very much enjoyed Scott Nye’s article for rogerebert.com about plot holes in movies that are summerily — if not satisfyingly — dealt with via some line of dialogue.

If you watch big budget entertainments, there’s no escaping these sorts of moments. The trope familiar to the Scooby-Doo generation, in which a few nagging uncertainties are resolved with a “there’s just one thing I don’t understand” kickoff, has now become a motif. Characters must constantly address questions on behalf of a too-curious audience awash in complexly-plotted mega-stories. The movies are trying to plug leaks in a boat before the whole thing sinks—never quite repairing it, but doing just enough to get by.

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He has some great examples but does not mention my favorite, in “Thank You for Smoking,” written and directed by Jason Reitman, based on the book by Christopher Buckley.  It’s my favorite because it makes fun of this very issue.  Aaron Eckhart, plays Nick, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, who meets with Rob Lowe, as Jeff, a Hollywood executive, to talk about product placement in a new film.  There’s a hitch — it takes place on a spaceship.

Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?

Jeff Megall[long pause] Probably. But, you know, it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue: “Thank God we created the, you know, whatever device.” You ought to make a product to tie in with the movie, such as a new brand of cigarettes.

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And Slate, which just blamed the book Save the Cat!, with its formula for movie scripts, for the cookie-cutter nature of studio films, has a new piece about the year’s biggest money-losers, calling this The Summer of the Mega-Flop.

The latest high-profile calamity at the box office is the ill-buzzed R.I.P.D., which followed such heavily marketed titles as Pacific RimThe Lone Ranger, White House Down, andAfter Earth in failing to attract its expected audience. Meanwhile, The Conjuring, a smaller,Exorcist-style chiller from Saw director James Wan, more than doubled its production budget in just one weekend.

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Summer 2013 is unquestionably the season of the über-flop. But do these numbers add up to the paradigm shift that Spielberg anticipates? For moviegoers exasperated by CGI whooshing—and 150-minute running times padded with a solid hour of action—a victory for the little guy might seem like good news. Still, the tent-pole collapse isn’t quite as stark as headlines might imply. With a mammoth gross of $407 million, Iron Man 3 has become the year’s top-earning movie, while Fast & Furious 6 continues a long line of success for its franchise. From the theaters’ perspective, this summer has been a bonanza. “We had four straight weeks of more than $300 million in box office, which has never happened,” says Patrick Corcoran, vice president  of the National Association of Theater Owners….?In an interview with New York magazine critic David Edelstein, producer Lynda Obst also pins the current trend toward gigantism on the increased importance of the foreign market, coupled with a collapse in DVD sales, which once provided a safety net for midrange pictures that didn’t pan out….Gomery notes that this summer’s fizzling blockbusters may also be symptomatic of the type of moviegoing dip that typically accompanies recessions; so far, relatively flat domestic attendance has been offset by China’s emergence as the world’s second-largest film market. And the jury may even be out on this summer. In the era of media conglomerate–owned studios, he says, it’s traditionally been the rule has been that it’s “a good year” if one in 10 of your major properties takes off and becomes a hit. If you want to get a sense of how that principle might work, he says, “Just watch a day’s worth of HBO.”

 

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