30 June 2023

Cultural dinosaurs and creative exhaustion

It's no secret that American movies are in the doldrums.  By a recent estimate, all of Disney's last eight big films flopped, losing a total of nearly $900 million, and the upcoming Indiana Jones fiasco will probably push that total to well over a billion.  Nor is it just Disney.  DC's stuff, notably The Flash, hasn't been doing well either.  Hardly anything has.

Part of the problem is the insane costs of modern special-effects-laden behemoths.  $200 million isn't an unusual budget for a major movie these days.  And that doesn't mean that it breaks even once it grosses $200 million.  First, there are huge marketing costs that also need to be earned back.  Second, the studio generally gets only about half of the revenue of tickets sold (the theater keeps the other half).  Thus, for example, if a movie costs $200 million to make plus $100 million in marketing, it has to gross $600 million just to break even.  In fact, it's worse than that since in China, the second-biggest film market after the US, the share passed on to the studio is usually only 20% or 25%.  Like dinosaurs so huge that they need more food than their environment can easily provide, modern film blockbusters seem to be headed for extinction via sheer bloat.

There is also a problem of creative exhaustion.  Almost everything seems to be franchises and superheroes and remakes and reboots.  With such massive amounts of money at stake, taking a chance on something original seems too risky.  The remakes are usually duds because the people who make them don't understand the meaning and essence of the originals.  (Instead of remaking great movies from the past, maybe they should try remaking movies that weren't so great, in hopes of actually producing something better rather than merely an inferior knock-off of a classic.  Just a thought.)  Almost everything is full of preachy woke messaging that turns off mainstream audiences.  There's the dull, ugly, gloomy visual look that's so pervasive these days.

The deteriorating theater experience probably plays a role.  Ticket prices are ridiculously high; you get more than a quarter-hour of commercials before the movie; jackasses in the audience chatter or consult brightly-glowing phones throughout; the dominant chain where I live now requires you to choose a specific seat when you buy a ticket, rather than just going in and sitting wherever you like.  But the fact that some major streaming TV projects like The Rings of Power, Willow, Velma, and She-Hulk -- with the same kinds of creative flaws discussed above -- were similarly rejected by audiences, suggests that theater-related irritants aren't the main problem.

This video explains some further issues, notably the covid pandemic and competition from internet-based entertainment:

A very few recent movies have managed to succeed with audiences in spite of all these obstacles -- Top Gun Maverick, Super Mario Bros, Avatar 2 -- so it can be done.  But even there, in the case of Mario, the Japanese company that owns the original material had to put its foot down and stop Hollywood from lacing it with all the usual junk which would probably have made it just another flop.

It's interesting that as American movies are losing appeal world-wide, Japanese anime is growing in popularity everywhere, including within the US.  It generally has fresh and original content, often genuinely intellectually thought-provoking, and there's almost never preachy social messaging.  It offers what American movies once did, before the age of the formulas and franchises.

But always remember that the fruits of those better days haven't gone anywhere -- they're still with us.  DVDs are cheap, or free at the library.  There are specialist companies that sell older movies and TV shows for every niche interest.  Most people now have big high-resolution home computer monitors, or even bigger TVs.  The streaming services are starting to take some older films out of circulation, or vandalize them Orwell-Ministry-of-Truth-style to fit current fads on what is or isn't "acceptable", as is already being done with older books -- but once that DVD is on your shelf, no one can take it away from you or change it.

Someday the current creative dark age will end, and our native film industry will grow daring and original again.  But until then, we're well provisioned to survive the cultural wasteland.

28 June 2023

Video of the day -- the price of negligence

James Cameron -- who has himself been down to the Titanic wreckage thirty-three times, and has gone much deeper elsewhere in a sub of his own design -- explains why the Titan was doomed from the start.

27 June 2023

Truths and inspirations, 27 June 2023

If something's hard to read, click to biggify.....

(If you're looking for the link round-up, click here.)

Images marked LUSHblueart made by Amanda.

I haven't verified this quote, but it's typical of the kind of thing these nutbars come up with.

Made by Pliny.