“Second time bomb on the right, please”. The above photo is supposed to illustrate the below article about mediocre Hollywood products- but it’s not a comment on the quality of Airplane II. Airplane II was awesome. Read Julie Gray’s piece below to see if you can figure why I used this image.
Today’s post comes from Julie Gray, founder of The Script Department, Hollywood’s premier script coverage service. She authors the the popular screenwriting blog Just Effing Entertain Me, and teaches screenwriting classes at Warner Bros., The Great American PitchFest, and The Creative Screenwriting Expo. She also directs the Silver Screenwriting Competition that y’all should check out. Julie penned this awesome piece about mediocrity in Hollywood writing – to help inspire the Zooppa community.
Talkin’ Bout a Revolution
In the past few years, the ratio of mediocre to good films released by Hollywood has been very high. Forgettable movies are being released in a wave of gooey, sticky stupidness that dulls the senses and make the heart ache for what we’ve lost.
IT’S COMPLICATED. No, not really. It’s processed is what it is. Like Velveeta. LOVE, ACTUALLY? No, not actually. Do you take us for fools now, Hollywood? Just because we liked Amy Adams in ENCHANTED (more like it!) DOUBT (wow.) and SUNSHINE CLEANING does not mean we are then Pavlovian dogs who cannot see that her character in JULIE AND JULIA was easily the weakest part of the film and that LEAP YEAR was corn meal mush. What? A city girl falls for a rural Irish dude?! Like – a fish out of water? SERIOUSLY?
Remakes. Reboots. Comic books as movies. Games as movies. Sequels. Prequels. Pretzels. Mouthfuls of stale gumballs.
I’m as mad as hell. Well, more like quietly depressed. But still.
Where are the good movies? What is happening? Is this what it’s like, the slow descent into a 1984-ish world in which “entertainment” is packaged in little grey boxes and not loving AVATAR simply because it was loud and pretty is a thought crime?! The plot was horrible, people! Oh geez, is that a helicopter hovering outside my window? I TAKE IT BACK! The chocolate ration is 5 grams today! I love Avatar, I love Avatar! I want the Avatar interactive video game, bath towels, Happy Meal, Twitter feed, coffee mug and all future merchandising and I’ve renamed my dog Navoo!
Before someone angrily rolls belly up to their keyboard to defend some movie or three THEY liked, I happily admit that of course we have had more than a few good movies in the past few years. Of course.
Don’t even try to go there and deny that a terrible fog of mediocrity is hanging over Hollywood. And it’s choking the art form of cinema to death. The worst part is that the mediocrity is self-generated because I tell you right now that I see some great scripts and really fresh ideas come from aspiring writers from all over the world. But these scripts don’t make it into the right hands. There is an industry around keeping them out and unfortunately that industry is in part fueled by the millions of scripts that pour into Hollywood each day that were written hastily by dabblers and pretenders who haven’t bothered to learn a goddamn thing about the industry they flippantly think will pay them loads of money.
Scripts that miraculously do get over the moat get massaged to death until they become SOME MOVIE at a theater near you with SOME ACTOR you know with SOME PLOT you’ll digest without complaint. And tons of perfectly good scripts written by aspiring writers who absolutely have bothered to learn the craft get tossed aside into a great burning heap because they “have no attachments” or “aren’t four-quadrant” or “are too edgy” or “too soft for audiences.” I could scream.
All these cookie cutter movies are giving us a collective gut ache. Pass the Pepto and make it quick.
No, Nancy Meyers, I am not sufficiently entertained by the mere presence of Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, her dream kitchen (which she wants to remodel!), or her freakishly maintained garden with big fat beefsteak tomatoes growing in it! I am not a demographic you can market consumer envy to! I am a woman with two kids and a small business and a life and dishes in the sink and I go to the movies so I can be told a story that makes me feel elevated and transported and intellectually stimulated, not inadequate because I don’t have a gorgeous house in Montecito in which a family of 38 Algerians would happily live in great comfort. Is it me? That house did not need a remodel! An issue of Pottery Barn starring Meryl Streep does not pass for a movie! And no, Steve Martin is not a romantic lead! He’s not! Sorry. I totally blew my Eckhart Tolle intention for the day.
Calmly floating clouds. Floating. In the sky calmly.
Send out the bat signal. It is time for a new generation of visionary writers and directors in Hollywood. Those driven by raw creativity and a crazy love of the medium, not fear and risk assessment. Hollywood has become a corporate wasteland and the results are so plainly obvious that it’s painful. When huge corporations for which entertainment is only one slice of the pie chart at the annual meeting are deciding what’s at the multiplex, a little part of the glorious medium of film and its capacity to deliver profundity, meaning and pure fun dies a horrible death. And it’s a death by a thousand FURRY VENGEANCES and ROBIN HOODS. Oh, hey, by the way, we’ve already seen ROBIN HOOD – it was called GLADIATOR.
The Academy Awards have always been a marketing tool (I wasn’t BORN YESTERDAY and god I love that movie) but the obviousness of this baldly corporate mechanism of self-congratulation and sales tactics has reached such epic proportions that I have ceased watching. ME! The Oscar party girl! The just-put-pressure-on-it-honey-the-Oscars-are-on girl! I just don’t bother anymore. It’s about the pretty dresses now. The nominations have no actual artistic measure or relevance. I mean, sure, there are deserving nominations but BLIND SIDE?! How is there any perspective anymore? And we don’t even get streakers or Native Americans accepting awards for nominated recluses. What’s to watch?
Give me the Golden Globes. TV is kicking the ass of the feature film to the curb, creatively. There is more provocative, intelligent, sharp entertainment in one episode of “Nurse Jackie” than in the past four romcoms rolled together and smoked after dinner. And “30 Rock?” THIS IS COMEDY. But those Newscorp suits apparently don’t stay up much past 8pm so how would they know?
Will there be a revolution in entertainment? Is there a new golden age of independent films around the corner? Is this stopped up atmosphere going to give way to a great, raging wave of creativity that has been lurking? I think so. I can feel it. We love our movies and we demand better entertainment and I know a LOT of writers happy to deliver. And I know a lot of small producers and lovers of film who want to make movies – not product. And I cannot wait to devour the greatness that is only a year or three away from a theater near you.
Write your hearts out, guys. Eff the establishment. Give us the movies we deserve and crave. With intelligence, wit, candor and courage. Bring the good movies back.