Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are there any new stories?

One of the common things my film friends and I talk about are about the lack of new, fresh stories for movies. I rarely go to a movie theater anymore, preferring to wait till the DVD release or getting a screening copy.

I should add that most of my friends are film people, directors, DP's and some writers. To balance it a bit, I have regular friends also, business people, Dan who works the newsstand near me and neighbors.

 One thing in common with all of them is this; there's not a lot of good movies out there anymore. It seems that studios are sticking to the safe method of choosing projects; that means repeating whatever has a big opening. If Fast and Furious makes a ton of money, it's guaranteed that a sequel will do reasonably okay, and a sequel on a sequel will make enough money too.

(Incidently, I could not post "Fast and Furious" in the labels box as it's not allowed)?

And repeating the same plotline for romantic comedies works sometimes but more often than not, unless it has Steve Carrell in it, who seems to always attract an audience. But Seth Rogan is beginning to wear thin on audiences. And Jennifer Aniston, who reportedly made $28 million last year for movies very few go to see, is the luckiest woman on the planet, having no talent whatsoever.

So what's the problem?

I've always thought that having lived as long as I have, and my peers, we've seen almost every storyline, plot, twist, idea, concept and treatment that exists. When you've been on the planet as long as I have, you've seen a lot of movies. And I started at 4 years old.

So it must get harder to come up with a fresh idea that we boomers haven't seen. But the odd thing is that I hear this from kids too so maybe there is a lack of good ideas out there, or at least ideas that a studio wants to take a chance on.

I watched a movie last night called Skyline, which was directed by two brothers who worked on James Cameron's Titanic and Avatar. The CGI was incredible, but there was no real story and no real ending, it just stopped. It had a group of B-level actors hired more for their looks than their acting ability who ran around a condo in the Marina being chased by world class CGI aliens.

It was just like Battle - Los Angeles. And a dozen other movies.

While the special effects were spectacular, you would have thought the two brothers who did Skyline would have asked Jim Cameron for some tips on story. Apparently not.

And guess what, Skyline 2 is already in the works.

One of the creators of the 100-plus cable/satellite channels was interviewed recently and said that their hope for the 170 or so channels was that it would create work and new ideas for niche audiences and would be a wonderful thing.

But what happened instead is that a lot of these channels filled schedules with old TV shows and anything to do with Hitler and of course, more reality TV shows, some of which last a few episodes before they're cut.

In his words, what he felt he and others created was not a new age of ideas and stories, but rather what they created was mediocrity. His words.

Then I saw Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen.

I enjoyed Woody's earlier movies, didn't mind the middle ones and passed on some of the recent ones. Until Paris.

Midnight in Paris was the kind of movie I used to see a few dozen times a year back in the 1970's and 1980's.

It entertained me. I didn't want it to end, I wanted to stay with Owen Wilson (arguably the best stand-in for Woody ever) and I wanted to go to Travelocity and book my flight to Paris immediately.

And I wasn't the only one. In fact anyone I spoke to who saw it had the same reaction. In fact it looks like it might make the most money of all Woody's movies. It was everything, fresh, inventive and charming.

And Woody's 76 years old.

And he had to get European financing because nobody in the U.S. wants to fund his movies.

The LA Times had an article that told how Sony execs "sold" Woody's movie, how they tested and tracked and did all that stuff that shows how smart they are.

But they're wrong. Midnight in Paris is successful because everyone who saw it told everyone else. Word of mouth. The oldest and cheapest promotion you can get. Real people.

And I saw another film I liked, Super 8, which was interesting because when I saw it the audience was almost all between 30 and 40. Granted it was a matinee but the theater was a third full even though the film has played for several weeks.

Then I realized why; it was the exact remake/duplicate of Spielberg's 80's movies, very similar to ET and Close Encounters. Shot for shot directed by JJ Abrams and exec produced by Spielberg.

It was a throwback to the past, thus the audience who were probably kids when ET came out. Now in their 30's and 40's they recognized the nostalgia factor as well. And it was a pretty good movie.

Are there new stories out there. I'm sure there are, but they're harder to get made. InkTip is a website where producers hunt for new material but from what I've seen they want cheap copies of whatever is big now. One producer posted a line that read "Idea must sell us in one sentence and if you can't do that, don't bother". 

Do they really think they'll get that great idea with that posting? You don't get the new Midnight in Paris by demanding that it has to sell in one sentence.

All I want is to be thrilled and excited again, to walk out of a movie with the feeling that I had a good time, and that it made me feel better.

More Transformers doesn't do it for me.