THE MARGINALIZATION OF THE MOTION PICTURE DRAMA

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FROM EW

This article confirms what I’ve been thinking for a LONG time. But I genuinely feel that the studios’ reluctance to back meaningful dramatic and/or grown up fare has to do with certain cycles.

Bugs the hell out of me because those are the kinds of films that I actively seek out…and not just the prestige OSCAR bait either.

For the record…

PUBLIC ENEMIES is an experience that I’m genuinely looking forward to.

I enjoyed FROST/NIXON (four stars from me), STATE OF PLAY (viewed it twice), REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and GRAN TORINO.

I gave DUPLICITY (easily one of my all time favourites – saw it twelve times) a four star rating.

DUPLICITY is a comedy. But it’s incredibly smart, complex and substantial.

So you have to keep up and think at a certain level as it unspools before you.

Perhaps that’s why it didn’t kill at the box office…?

What if your idea of entertainment involves more than watching Ben Stiller get slapped by monkeys? The pickings are slim and getting slimmer.

In the wake of high profile dramas flopping at the box office – including FROST/NIXON, STATE OF PLAY, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and AUSTRALIA – studios are increasingly gun shy about making movies that don’t offer pure escapism. Even the frothy, adult oriented caper DUPLICITY struggled to find a wide audience.

One producer who specializes in dramas says the climate is as brutal as he’s ever seen it: “Anything that can’t be sold as a genre film or wasn’t conceived as a franchise is dead.”

Even projects that might once have been considered OSCAR bait have fallen prey to executives’ squeamishness. PARAMOUNT turned down director Bill Condon’s planned biopic about RICHARD PRYOR, with EDDIE MURPHY attached to star. UNIVERSAL axed a drama starring NAOMI WATTS as a global activist.

“With the economy being what it is, no one wants to get blamed for a failure,” one agent commented.

“If you greenlight something that’s totally mainstream and it fails, it’s not your fault. If you greenlight an adult drama and it tanks, you lose your job.”

Who’s to blame for the sorry state of the adult drama?

Filmmakers fault studio marketers for not effectively selling serious fare. Producers blame the studios for making poor choices and spending too much money, setting dramas up for failure. Meanwhile, some executives say the films themselves simply aren’t compelling enough.

“Frankly, a lot of the dramas just aren’t as good as they purport to be,” said a studio exec.

To break through these days, a dramatic film needs to have more than simply an OSCAR winner or two and a worthwhile tale to tell.

“The adult drama today has to be more than a meditation on alcoholism,” stated ROBERTO ORCI, cowriter and executive producer of STAR TREK, who’s trying to get his own drama 28TH AMENDMENT off the ground at WARNER BROTHERS.

“You have to tell that story in a new way.”

It also helps if you can give your drama the commercial hook of a genre film – like last year’s hit GRAN TORINO, a meditation on tolerance wrapped in the guise of a movie with a gun toting CLINT EASTWOOD and a cool car.

“That movie worked because you could put a 30 second spot together where people said, ‘Oh, that sounds kick ass,’ ” said GARY FOSTER.

UNIVERSAL seems to be following a similar playbook for its JULY release PUBLIC ENEMIES.

The studio’s great, heart thumping trailer suggests an action movie more than a character driven historical drama.

As bleak as things look for the adult drama, many believe the genre is simply in the midst of a cyclical downturn and that it will eventually make a comeback.

“People are turned off to stuff that’s holding a mirror up to their lives,” said one prominent producer.

“But that will all change when we return to a more solid economic footing.”

Producer MARK JOHNSON agrees.

“You have to have faith in a mature audience. The strike zone may be getting smaller and smaller, but if you throw it right, it can still work.”

5 Responses to “THE MARGINALIZATION OF THE MOTION PICTURE DRAMA”

  1. well so much having to appeal to the guys isn’t helping even 3% and yeah blame OSCAR bait movies.

    yeah i always pick on those two things. ha ha…and that seems to be all we get mostly. hah …

    i hope someone’s happy….

  2. “You have to have faith in a mature audience. The strike zone may be getting smaller and smaller, but if you throw it right, it can still work.”

    which i guess means more obviously genre type stuff right???

    and i’d like to see a film that held a mirror up to my life. i don’t think that movie has been made yet.

    ha ha ha….

    talk about a film with no commercial hook and something that could be sold as an adult drama.

    that would be it….

    but who cares. let’s have another 50,000 films with talking animals, a superhero or please lord just stop those generic OSCAR bait films number #17 – 80 million.

    yeah…

    signed your geek mad topical bore….

  3. glim, I think this nonsense about catering to men in the motion picture marketplace is just that.

    COMPLETE BS.

    Aside from artsy dudes and guys employed in those industries, I just don’t see it. Women have always been much more interested in movies. (Not necessarily film.) Females will go to the movies by themselves, with dates/boyfriends/spouses or a group of girlfriends.

    Men may do all of those things from time to time. But not in the sheer numbers that women do. Dudes like things like sports and hanging out at the bloody bar.

    If they’re creative types, sure. But that’s not the majority of guys. And when MOST men go to the movies, they see a lot of stuff that resembles the biggest summer blockbuster.

    Where are these studio idiots getting their stats? I think it’s just so that they can keep on making this junk. Not too hard to sell it. Appeals to the lowest common denominator. Plus they’re likely to be hits (GOD…WHY???) so they can keep their jobs.

    Sounds suspiciously like a self fulfilling prophecy.

    But, you know…if they keep saying that women don’t go to the movies (repeating it over and over again like it’s a mantra) then they don’t have to greenlight projects where females are the leads.

    So women will have much less power in the industry and they can be pushed to the sidelines even further.

    Howzabout that???

    Honey, I know you hate OSCAR bait movies. But some of them are great. I guess you’ll just have to avoid them. They won’t be going away any time soon. The industry needs them.

    Yeah, they can keep the genre stuff to a minimum. Unless it’s exceptional product that turns the conventions on its head. Like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

    glimby, I’d pay to see a film about your life. Depending on who writes it *ahem* it could be fabulously cool and fascinating. We’ll see what happens with that before we get done.

    I understand your grand and never ending cynicism, my pet. I share it.

    I’m certainly not happy with this particular state of affairs.

    Couldn’t change soon enough for me…and you can take that to the bank.

  4. ok. so females should feel even worse.

    if they go to movies more and most of the big ‘product’ is still mostly stuff that appeals to the guys or is the type of movie the guys would approve of…at least in theory.

    and you know i hate hate how the guys whine when a big movie that a bit more aimed at females becomes number one. and man or whomever watch the insults fly/watch how offended they seem (ok and maybe they’re not acting) that a movie like this could even exist. a film with ‘for the guys’ approval must be number one at the boxoffice/be the big movie of the week all 52 weekends of the year.

    and seriously i don’t give a damn/nor am i going to pretend that i care or thinking talking robots should be taking soooo seriously/worshipped/or made to seem like the apex of culture/importance.

    yes and as you can guess i’m not interested in sports either (aside from the side show/’freak’/kooky stories…)

    drinking…nah i’m too boring.

    bars never been in one(combine that with no concerts and i’m the perfect guy. *ha ha* )

    ok i may actually go to bar sort of soon. in my geek talk that means in about 27 months.

    something sort of film (local ‘indie’ ) related happens in a ‘rock out’ town bar once a month and maybe i should go…

    just don’t ask me about my id ok… 😉

  5. It’s typical Hollywood BS, glimby.

    Back in the 30s and 40s when women had relatively little power as compared to today (no reliable birth control, limited career options, everyone expected that they would settle down and marry some yahoo), American cinema had tons of charismatic female actors in fabulous lead roles.

    Figures that as soon as society gave women a taste of real power in the 70s that those plum parts in movies would start disappearing.

    Mere coincidence? I doubt it…

    Yeah, things are so much better for women in general. But I see that that glass ceiling sure as hell does a lot of shifting around.

    Hah hah.

    When I was talking sports and bars, I was speaking of the typical guy, glim. Even you have to admit you’re NOT the stereotypical dude.

    THANK GOD.

    I would never want you to be like that.

    (Not to offend anyone who digs sports and bars. That’s all fine. But glim is ultimately his own person.)

    You are the perfect guy, sweetheart. You don’t have to change for anyone.

    You’ve all ready got everything you need.

    One day you’ll remember that I said that…

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