Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shocking? Not really

Take a quick guess. How many of the twenty highest grossing films of the decade were original properties, neither sequels, remakes, nor based on material from another medium (as they say)?

Check the answer here.

Now a lot of this is unfair, of course. Pirates of the Caribbean is derivative in name only. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with derivative movies. LOTR was pretty good. But really.

Cool quote:

Out of the top 50 grossing films of this decade, there are only 9 movies based on original properties. And five of those nine films were created by Pixar Animation Studios.

If you're curious, the two non-Pixar, non-Dreamworks-animation original films in the top fifty are:

Hancock
The Day after Tomorrow

Have a nice decade.

18 comments:

Christian Lindke said...

Yes, by all means let's stop making "derivative" movies. We'd all be better off without The Wizard of Oz, The 39 Steps, Gone with the Wind, The Oxbow Incident, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, or Yojimbo. [/sarcasm]

I find no conversation more dull or cliched when coming from a "critic" than the lamentation over the production of derivative properties. Hollywood has a rich history of using other media for inspiration. I also venture that if we were to count up all of the derivative films and weigh them against all of the "theatrical original" films, we might find that the quality lies more on the side of the derivative film.

BTW, those 50 films contained some excellent fare by any standard.

Tulkinghorn said...

My lack of interest in who is making what movie version of what has just irritated another 25% of the readership of this blog....

I'd love to have this discussion with you and David -- if he still reads this -- over beers at Lucky's. Loser pays -- and bring money.

I read a quote once from, of all people, Peter Falk, when discussing John Cassavetes:

"It's not the job of the fucking artist to tell the audience what it already fucking knows."

Besides "Yojimbo" is a cheat...

Generic said...

A cheat? Pray elucidate, smart ass.

Christian Lindke said...

You're right about "Yojimbo" being a cheat, but then again so would "Outland" be a cheat and "Forbidden Planet" and "West Side Story."

A more "sophisticated" way of making my point would be...

It is natural that most of Hollywood's successful films, both financially and critically, would be made up of films based on other properties. Creating entertainment is a difficult process and if one can adapt to another medium something that has been successful in another medium, one has a bit of a head start in making something entertaining.

BTW, you did not irritate me -- FilmSite did.

Tulkinghorn said...

Based very loosely on Red Harvest, emphasis on loosely....

Although the lying Wikipedia believes it to be controversial:


Kurosawa stated that a major source for the plot was the film noir classic The Glass Key (1942), an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 1931 novel. In particular, the scene where the hero is captured by the villains and tortured before he escapes is copied almost shot for shot from The Glass Key. However, it has been noted that the overall plot of Yojimbo is actually much closer to that of another Hammett novel, Red Harvest (1929). Kurosawa scholar David Desser and film critic Manny Farber, among others, state categorically that Red Harvest was the inspiration for the film; however, other scholars, such as Donald Richie, believe the similarities are coincidental.

Generic said...

It's primarily Re Harvest but also borrows one scene from The Dain Curse? Horrifying.

The only reason to make anything into a movie, including an original script, is because a talented filmmakers can't get the images out his head. You seesm to be assuming that when these things are done it will inevitably be some hack ruining a beloved book. Why assume the worst? Hacks have adapted many things, but Peter Jackson had been thinking about LOTR since he was 12.An interesting sensibility working on good material? Odds of success pretty good.

Speaking of which, QT at one point expressed an interest in the Stieg Larsson books. I say say let him try. He's Aspie enough to get Salander in a way few other people could. And he's worked with Clooney. The option least likely to be "tedious," IYAM.

Christian Lindke said...

Wikipedia is nuts and has content inserted by insane people. Bruce Willis' film "Last Man Standing" was an almost scene for scene adaptation of Red Harvest -- minus the anti-union busting undertones -- with the insertion of the beating scene from "The Glass Key."

What did critics say about the film when it came out? "Another 'Yojimbo' rip off."

In a world where George Lucas can pull frame for frame scenes from serials and it goes unnoticed by critics who feign love for a medium, it comes as no surprise.

"Yojimbo" certainly has enough originality that I won't say that it is pure adaptation, but it would not exist without Hammett's book and is closer to "Red Harvest" than "The Thin Man" is to its source material or "Blade Runner" is to its.

My point is that film has a glorious history of adaptation and that the fact that what is now being adapted, and consumed en masse, isn't what the literati want to see (except when it is as the Oscar nominations of last year can attest) is no sweat off my brow.

I think Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Jon Favreau's Iron Man are two of the best adventure films ever made...period.

I also think that QT's Kill Bill vol. 1 is a perfect film and I wish he had been given the time to craft vol. 2 that the film deserved.

I also agree that the Pirates films are derivative in name, an archetypes, only. The major exception being the next planned film, which will incorporate elements of a Tim Powers novel.

BTW, I am actually disappointed that Disney is canceling McG's "20,000 Leagues," but at least John Carter is on the way...fingers crossed.

Generic said...

Movie tends to be more popular with people who watch them at least some of them time on actual movie screens, rather than on television.

Tulkinghorn said...

I have believed for a while that the physical beauty of film projected on a big screen is actually what makes most movies bearable -- that and the investment of time (about ninety minutes in transit there and back for a non-neighborhood movie and about two hours or more in the theatre, say three and a half or four hours total) and money (twenty dollars or more for tickets, another twenty if you're grabbing a sandwich -- all for two, not to mention baby sitting.....)

Anyway, if I've spent about 25% of my waking hours one day and upwards of fifty dollars for my wife and I to see Avatar, it better be fucking good, especially given the more humane and cheaper alternatives -- like taking a walk or reading or watching a movie on television, which I can bail on if it sucks, which it mostly does.

Tulkinghorn said...

Besides, there's something defensive and snobby at the same time about movie goers who claim that only the theatrical experience matters.

I spend a lot of time at Disney Concert Hall but would never claim that serious music cannot be appreciated at home.... In fact, the more you know about music, apparently, the less you need the trappings.

I am perfectly capable of figuring out that "Quantum of Solace" is confused and lame without seeing it big -- and would resent it if I were fooled into liking it by how cool the virtual computer screens looked in the theatre.

Christian Lindke said...

"Quantum of Solace" is in no way confuse and lame, about that you are quite wrong.

As for your movie theater/concert hall comparison, it is an apples to oranges situation. Were one to listen to a CD of a recording of a Disney Concert Hall concert in order to review the concert, that would be a poor choice. Similarly, movies are shot for the big screen experience. The camera angles selected, when done by craftsmen, utilize the natural position of the audience in reference to the screen. Point of fact, "stadium seating" also undermines the viewing process.

You can see a picture of a sculpture and gain some appreciation of its aesthetic merits, but that is not the same as seeing the sculpture. The same is true for film.

Viewers, everyday viewers seeking entertainment, are perfectly well served by DVDs etc. But critics, who should be viewing the content and the art, aren't. In fact their art -- the art of criticism -- is debased by screeners.

As for defensive and snobby...

That describes the writing of 99% of all critics, more especially those who use DVD screeners as substitutes for theatrical experience.

I also think films are best when viewed with their intended audience. Watching "Drag Me to Hell" with horror-comedy fans is a very different experience than watching it with Culture Warriors.

Generic said...

"the physical beauty of film projected on a big screen is actually what makes most movies bearable"

You should write this up as an essay. Maybe a book!

Generic said...

"Watching "Drag Me to Hell" with horror-comedy fans is a very different experience than watching it with Culture Warriors."

Whoah. Full burn.

Tulkinghorn said...

Audiences are highly overrated. In the days of my youth, I attended a screening of "Diary of a Country Priest" at a theatre in New York called the Anthology Film Archives in which each audience member sat in a sort of box from the inside of which you could see and hear only the screen. (I can find no reference to this online, so maybe I made it up, but my memory is clear.)

Of course, watching the movie that way is a very different experience to watching it with Bresson fans.....

At any rate, I'm willing to be agnostic about the virtues of Quantum of Solace, which seemed to me like a lot of aimless running around interspersed with some French guy r-r-r-rolling his r's and twirling his moustache.

Christian Lindke said...

I think sitting in an isolation box is exactly like watching the film with Bresson fans.

As for "full burn"...

The last thing you want to do is start a flame war with a professional troll by provoking with Snark.

The comparison was not intended as burn, rather to emphasize that one of the reasons film as a theatrical experience has survived is the communal element and that watching a film with its intended audience heightens that experience.

And if you were "fooled" into liking the film by seeing it on the big screen, then the director in Stanley Donen-esque fashion "lying at 24 frames per second" has done his job.

Film is about trickery and not any concept of translating the real. The real is dull. My neighbors smoking on their patio downstairs is real. Give me the fantastic. Fool me all day. Do everything you can to keep my vicarious and visceral eyes satisfied and my voyeuristic eye distracted.

Generic said...

Not thinking of flame in that sense...

Tulkinghorn said...

For the Snark was a Boojum you see....

I think David meant "En Fuego!". And he's right.

"Give me the fantastic. Fool me all day."

If you were a tattoo kind of guy (and for all I know you are) I'd strongly suggest inscribing that on your forearm.

Generic said...

OK, you win.

No results found for "Give me the fantastic. Fool me all day."