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A Screenwriter’s Solution to Hollywood’s Slump

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 10:33 pm - September 28, 2005.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV

Looking at the Hollywood box office slump of 2005, my friend Craig Titley (quite possibly the funniest screenwriter in Hollywood who is also intelligent) finds similarities to the slump twenty years ago, back in 1985 when Back to the Future topped the box office charts.

Craig notes how both slumps followed the re-election of presidents who were “despised by the coasts, the media, and Bruce Springsteen.” He finds cultural similarities as well; both years saw a growth in home entertainment. And contends:

The questions Hollywood needs to be asking is not what caused the slump, but what will end it? What brought audiences back to the movies in ‘85? And what is it audiences now want that Hollywood 2005 isn’t delivering? The movies tell the tale.

By offering a detailed analysis of the successful movies (of 1985), Craig finds that they were largely pro-American flics:

these films were optimistic in a time of fear, and they didn’t endlessly bag on their own country or send a negative message to the world implying that America is full of corrupt, greedy, selfish, dishonest, Capitalist pigs and that the Russians have every right to hate us and nuke us. On the contrary, these films wore the flag proudly, celebrated American valor and the American spirit, and used the real world villains as the reel world villains.

There’s more great stuff like that in Craig’s piece so rather than having me give it you second-hand, just read the whole thing. Not only is it wise, but it’s witty as well, a real delight to read–and you’ll learn something along the way. And you’ll be reminded of what this town can accomplish when moviemakers promote what is best in this nation — and in all of us.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

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25 Comments

  1. That’s it!

    Remake the BTTF series!
    ;P

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — September 28, 2005 @ 11:52 pm - September 28, 2005

  2. What can Hollywood offer that we haven’t already had too much of? Terror attacks? War? Natural disasters? Outer space adventure? Political corruption? That’s been our headlines for the last few years, and we’re due for an escape.

    Maybe there’s still a relatively unexplored choice. Remember (or ever see) the old Andy Hardy series of movies? Not just kid stuff, yet not too sophisticated. The characters were familiar, likeable, perhaps a little too predictable, but that’s just part of following the story about a person you want to see again and again. We didn’t mind James Bond being predictably droll, or Luke Skywalker being cute, brave, and dumb.

    I don’t think we have to have another Rambo or Rocky to have an All American character we can all fall in love with. If we learned nothing else from 9/11/01, its that every American is capable of being a hero. Gay or straight, black or white, immigrant or native, we all love America a little more than it’s popular to admit. Maybe Hollywood can translate that into something watchable, and not too frightening or gory.

    Comment by Jay Croce — September 29, 2005 @ 12:22 am - September 29, 2005

  3. I think you also have to take cultural changes into account over twenty years. People have greater access to cable and the number of cable outlets has exploded. The need to see a first run movie has diminished as the phrase ” it’s a rental” has entered the movie critic lexicon. There is a huge move to independent movies made on smaller budgets that are given less theater time. The big movies have HUGE budgets and there is no risk taking. Titanic was a risk. But the trail from Star Wars to Middleearth to Hogwarts and from Rocky to Rocky xix leads to producers hedging their bets. I’m surprised there isn’t a Big Fat Greek Funeral, Big Fat Greek Divorce and so on. The risky decisions are left for cable. Six Feet Under, Sopranos, Rome and the like makes HBO really HOME BOX OFFICE. A good little movie like Crash, had so many producers spreading the risk that people started laughing at the opening credits.

    But if you really want to fill seats in theaters, release a bunch of feel good to be an American stuff and the more nostalgic the better. Because, it has been proven time and time again, Americans want to believe in an America that exists only in the cinema. That and don’t screw people at the concession counter.

    Comment by chandler in hollywood — September 29, 2005 @ 12:53 am - September 29, 2005

  4. Americans want to believe in an America that exists only in the cinema.

    I’m going to chew on that cynical statement for a while. Because, you know, if there is “bad” in America and that’s shown onscreen and declared a reality, how come not the “good”? How come “good” America exists “only in the cinema?”

    Comment by Darleen — September 29, 2005 @ 1:27 am - September 29, 2005

  5. #4
    Darleen,
    Why must you assume that my statement is cynical? You immediately jump to the diametric good/bad dichotomy. If I were to place an adjective on the jingoistic slant I would say idealized. It is an idealized version of America that puts a tear on the most hardened American in times like this. It is pure Rockwell.

    Comment by chandler in hollywood — September 29, 2005 @ 3:30 am - September 29, 2005

  6. I haven’t had HBO in a long time. As far as movies go, are they still showing the same thing every other month?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — September 29, 2005 @ 3:33 am - September 29, 2005

  7. #6 — My cable provider bundles HBO with my broadband service, so I’m sort of stuck with it even though I rarely watch it. Ah, cable deregulation… the impossible dream.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 7:16 am - September 29, 2005

  8. In the meantime, I could watch the sexy NHL ad that the liberal feminists are pissed off about about 900 times in a row.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 7:30 am - September 29, 2005

  9. I think the genre change you are highlight is not causal but coincidence, if such a radical shift is there at all in 1985. I certainly don’t think it is predictive. I have to ask what movies of the last year were “anti-American” or beating up on America? That isn’t rhetorical and a smart aleck question. I honestly don’t know because I haven’t been following new movies for over a year now. It has nothing to do with whether they are dark or not, funny or not, or pro-America (whatever that means) or not. It has to do with the fact that movies today are largely recycled from former movies directly, if not in story line. I think I’ve paid to see three movies in the theaters in the last year. One of them I found impressive, but not impressive enough for me to remember the title at this point. Everything else I see look so poorly done, so predictable and so canned that I wouldn’t even bother renting them for $4 with friends, much less go to a theater and pay $10 a person to see them. I’d rather watch them on cable, where I can change the channel after half an hour of listening to the same low-rent quality dialog and tired plot lines. If Hollywood wants to do something about it, how about giving us something well put together that is original. Original for the sake of original isn’t going to do them any favors, by evidence of much of the independent films that do just that.

    Comment by Mr. Moderate — September 29, 2005 @ 7:57 am - September 29, 2005

  10. Hollywood? Actually isn’t it fast becoming Dhimmiwood? Albert Brooks cannot have the word Muslem in his title becasue Sony Pictures contends it offends Islam, the movie Flight Plan purposefully presents Arab characters as the possible enemy but at the last minute makes US Marshalls the enemy (actually when has dhimmiwood ever presented a piece about the true nature of islamic extremism?) and Michael Moore openly advocates for Islamic-fascism.

    Hey, Dhimmiwood was so very silent when own of their own, director Van Gogh, was murdered openly on the public streets for having made a short film about Islam. George Clooney’s silence said it all!

    Besides the rampant nepotism which forms the Dhimmiwood empire is as corrupt as the NY Times Salzberg empire.

    In order for Dhimmiwood to bring itself back to a Hollywood without the anit-American Left, the only event at this point in the game is complete bankruptcy. Perhaps then those who work in the film industry will actually have jobs to return too since most of everything these days is filmed in areas outside the US in order to avoid taxation and paying union wages.

    Dhimmiwood, the biggest outsourced industry in America creating crap designed to bring America to her knees. I left the industry because I could not support such duplicitious manipulation of people’s emotions.

    Comment by syn — September 29, 2005 @ 8:40 am - September 29, 2005

  11. What always bothered me about Hollywood is that in almost every movie, the person trying to be sane and reasonable is wrong, and the person being hysterical and being told “you don’t know what you’re talking about” is always right. And that’s just not the way… life is.

    Also, Hollywood directors and producers don’t have a clue about real world economics. Movies routinely portray people with decidedly middle and lower-class occupations living in huge, designer houses and driving brand new Volvos and Lexuses.

    Not to mention that in movies, people who work for corporations are always evil, middle-aged white men, and trial lawyers, idealisitic social workers, GOOD cops, and liberal politicians tend to be hot babes with big tits.

    Also, all movie strippers are single moms with adorable precocious children at home.

    But what do I know.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 11:51 am - September 29, 2005

  12. Where to start?

    #3: Chandler, if you want to talk about “taking a risk”, look at Mel Gibson’s risk that paid off HUGE, and might just prove Dan’s point.

    #8: V, that commercial is even better if you watch it backwards: She takes his clothes off!

    #9: Mr. M., there are obviously anti-American movies out there like Michael Moore’s stuff, but what I personally don’t like is that it’s hard to go to a movie today without the requisite swipe somewhere during the course. There’s not necessarily an entirely anti-American bent throughout the whole film, but there’s always that one scene where some snarky jackass has to say something. Do I take it overly personal? Probably. But is it gratuituos and not needed in the telling of the story, therefore put there simply to make Left-America’s point that we’re bad? Most assuredly.

    #10: Let’s not forget what they did to Sum of All Fears.

    Comment by ColoradoPatriot — September 29, 2005 @ 11:55 am - September 29, 2005

  13. OT: Roberts confirmed, 78-22.

    Hmmm, that means, according to NARAL, HRC, NGLTF, PFAW, and the other groups… only 22 liberal senators are part of the mainstream, and the other 78 are dangerous extremists.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 12:02 pm - September 29, 2005

  14. Mr. Moderate (#9)-

    Read the linked piece more closely: “When the Slump of ’85 began, the Top 10 films included Police Academy 2, Friday the 13th Part V, Porky’s Revenge, and The Care Bears Movie.

    Lots of “sequels” — another version of the “remake”. What’s going on is that Hollywood’s “new” ideas aren’t selling, so they are trying to squeeze more life out of the same old ideas that made them money before. Same pattern.

    The isolated break-out hits (*sigh* yes, The Passion) are from far to the right of Hollywood’s usual.

    Hollywood’s about to get (or in the process of getting) another lesson (via studio heads) that the market matters, and that they need to make films that people want to watch.

    Comment by Clint — September 29, 2005 @ 12:22 pm - September 29, 2005

  15. Dan-

    Great link, thanks. Not something I usually think about, but it’s definitely true that Hollywood movies of the late ’80’s seriously helped us to win the war of ideas as the Soviet Union collapsed. And we could really use their help winning the war of ideas we’re in the middle of right now. I’ve been counting them AWOL, but your friend gives me hope.

    Comment by Clint — September 29, 2005 @ 12:24 pm - September 29, 2005

  16. Here’s an idea: How about Hollywood making movies that aren’t complete crap.

    If you look at the movies that have come out this summer, they’re comprised almost solely of remakes, sequels, or bastardizations of television shows of years gone by. To be blunt, this whole summer movie season has been a vast vortex of suckitude of a scale never before imagined.

    Comment by Vic — September 29, 2005 @ 12:26 pm - September 29, 2005

  17. Maybe this is a side note, but even though movies have become sucktacular, formalaic, and boring… the real creativity is on TV. Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and Prison Break are all incredibly well-written, stylishly directed, and absorbing. I am actually making conscious choices not to watch shows I hear good things about because I don’t want to get caught up in them.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 12:27 pm - September 29, 2005

  18. VtK-

    That’s a mistake — get TiVo, and watch several episodes at a time, in place of a “movie night” that you’d spend watching the least bad of your options.

    Comment by Clint — September 29, 2005 @ 1:13 pm - September 29, 2005

  19. I do have TiVo, and I’m thinking of getting a second one so my episodes of Battlestar, Family Guy, Stargate, Prison Break and Lost will stop getting bumped off by my kids’ Teen Titans, Mythbusters, Wild West Tech, and Mail Call.

    But, seriously, I have so much going on with work, family, web, and church that I really can’t get into any more TV. I check homework during Lost and Prison Break but I have a strict “I don’t take calls during Battlestar Galactica” rule.

    Comment by V the K — September 29, 2005 @ 1:25 pm - September 29, 2005

  20. I’ve often thought that the success of “Star Wars” in 1978 was because the movies of the 70’s up to that time were all dreadfully depressing. Star Wars was fun and exciting without having voyeuristic gore such as exists in many of today’s pictures. And it broke the 70’s taboo and actually dared to have a happy ending.

    While Star Wars was a blast, the rest of Hollywood was delivering a dark miasma of products. “Report to the Commissioner”, Soylent Green, “Hardcore” etc., come to mind. Anti-Heroes were all the rage.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — September 29, 2005 @ 1:28 pm - September 29, 2005

  21. Patrick–an excellent insight into the initial box office success of one of my favorite flicks. Though there is much more to it than that because of Star Wars enduring appeal.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — September 29, 2005 @ 1:33 pm - September 29, 2005

  22. Sony Drops Albert Brooks’ “Muslim” Film

    If Hollywood is looking for films of integrity and merit and Fahrenheit 9/11 falls into that category, I think they can expect their slump to continue.

    Trackback by Cake Or Death? — September 29, 2005 @ 4:26 pm - September 29, 2005

  23. If Hollywood is looking for films of integrity and merit and Fahrenheit 9/11 falls into that category, I think they can expect their slump to continue.

    Considering that it was the most successful documentary ever produced, regardless of it’s content, and that “The Passion of the Christ” was also a blockbuster at the time, one can only say that there is no accounting for taste. I’m perfectly happy having seen niether.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — September 29, 2005 @ 9:49 pm - September 29, 2005

  24. Agree, except wish people would stop calling F9-11 “documentary”. If it was, so were the films of Joseph Goebbels. (check out http://www.davekopel.com/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm)

    Comment by Radical4Capitalism — September 29, 2005 @ 10:00 pm - September 29, 2005

  25. That is nonsense. 2005 is derided because it is all nostalgic crap. If you really want to put a political label on that, it is more a failure of conservatism, not liberalism. They played it safe with boring movies and they lost. Even the Hard work, male family man, pro-american dream Cinderella Man lost.

    And the author even aknowedges that Back to the Future explodes the conservative myth that the 50s were some moral utopia. Yet he seems to call it nostalgia just the same. Whatever. He applies labels to the films that the films don’t deserve. Yes, Back To the Future had Libya as a bad guy, unfortunately Doc was in with them. And that pales in comparison to the main villian, Biff, a popular, all american man about town. And he doesn’t appear to talk about The Color Purple at all (#4, Box office) But lavishes some time On Pale Rider (#18) I like Clint Eastwood a lot, (Even his malignantly narcissistic, anti-conservative Million Dollar Baby) but that don’t change where it landed on the box office.

    When comparing the Box offices of 1985, and 2005, the obvious thing you must conclude is that in 1985 people were willing to watch derivative crap (poor sequels for both Rocky and Rambo? That is a bad year) and in 2005 they were not so willing to throw their money away.

    Comment by born again queer — September 30, 2005 @ 2:51 am - September 30, 2005

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