Hollywood

The Disaster Artist: An Interesting Character Study

James Franco directs and stars in this character study of filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made (2014) by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. There’s a tendency for biopics like this to pack all the entertaining content into the first half and then they drag on and on, struggling to tell the rest of the story. The Disaster Artist mostly avoids this pitfall.

The Disaster Artist (2017) traces the rise of mysterious and eccentric actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and his tumultuous friendship with the much younger Greg Sestero. Wiseau and Greg meet in an acting class, where Greg is drawn to Wiseau’s fearlessness and determination.

The two decide to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting careers. While Greg is able to land a few bit roles, people are turned off by Wiseau’s strange behavior, accent, and overconfidence. Frustrated by lack of forward momentum, Wiseau decides to write, produce, and direct his own film starring Greg and himself.

The project begins with promise, but things quickly go south as it becomes apparent Wiseau has more confidence than skill or experience. He continually references Hollywood to justify his bizarre behavior (“we’re making real Hollywood movie!”) and refers back to other directors’ outrageous behavior to excuse his own. Ironically, what he produces is so bad it goes down in history as one of the worst films ever made.

I never watched The Room (2003), and I don’t understand people’s fascination with bad movies or why they become cult classics. I guess it’s a way to live vicariously or somehow feel attached to something unique, similar to why reality TV is so popular.

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Worst Academy Awards in History

To no one’s surprise, most Americans decided not to watch a bunch of pampered, virtue-signaling millionaires pat themselves on the back at this year’s Academy Awards. With an average of 26.5 million viewers, it was the least-watched Oscars in history, down 19 percent from last year.

The raw numbers don’t even tell the whole story. 26.5 million viewers today are a lot smaller percentage of the population than forty years ago. In 1970, 43.4 percent of U.S. households tuned in. Forty-three percent!

What do you expect when literally hundreds of people in Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein’s outrageous behavior for decades, did nothing about it, or worse, helped to cover it up. Then they have the audacity to get up on stage for four grueling hours and lecture all of us about how we need to be more virtuous? Give me a break!

I’ve read plenty of excuses about how declining interest in the Academy Awards parallels declining interest in award shows or live events generally. That may be true, but do you really think an Oscars focused on entertainment, popular movies, and which was a reasonable length wouldn’t have pulled in a lot more views?

I guess I can only speak for myself, but I love movies and I’m staying away from the theater because it’s overpriced, the movies are crappy, and I’m constantly annoyed by having social and political messages shoved in my face in every film. So I have even less desire to watch an awards show in which everyone congratulates themselves over that sorry mess, and I think a lot of folks would agree.

Mediocre Movies of 2017

I watched a lot of movies in 2017. Some were great, and some were awful, but many were somewhere in the middle. They had the potential to be decent films but like Bobby Hill, something just wasn’t right. These movies are fun to watch but ultimately forgettable. A lot of them suffer from uninteresting or poorly developed characters, or have great characters but suffer from an identity crisis.

Here’s a list of a few mediocre movies released in 2017 (in no particular order):

Alien: Covenant stars Katherine Waterston as a colony ship scientist named Daniels, and Michael Fassbender, who plays dual roles as two androids named David and Walter, in a sci-fi horror film and the latest installment in the Alien franchise. It was directed by Ridley Scott and written by John Logan and Dante Harper. John Logan is an accomplished screen writer, but this was Dante Harper’s first screenplay. Michael Green (of Sex and the City and Green Lantern) and Jack Paglen are credited with writing the story. So many different writers is probably why Alien: Covenant felt like so many different films. [Read more…]

Wind River. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker and an FBI agent team up to solve a double homicide on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Wind River is writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s latest offering. Sheridan is known for writing Hell or High Water (2016) and Sicario (2015) and acting in a number of TV dramas. Wind River takes place in Wyoming in early spring and has a very Western feel, despite its snow-swept mountains. Stunning cinematography was not enough to make up for extremely slow pacing and lack of compelling story. Wind River is labeled a “murder mystery thriller film,” but isn’t either of those things. [Read more…]

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Movies I Hated in 2017

Right now, some high-powered consultants are being paid more than I’ll ever make in my lifetime to figure out why Hollywood movies are bombing at the box office. I’m sure they don’t want my advice, but here it is anyway: Enough with the annoying political and social messages! Audiences go to the theater to be entertained, not lectured or preached to. Hollywood has become the Rod Farva of the film industry–trying so hard but failing so tragically.

While I can’t blame all these dumpster fires on big budget studios, here are a few examples of the worst films released in 2017 (in no particular order):

The Hatred. Someone reportedly spent $800,000 on this piece of garbage. Four college coeds and a young girl must survive the night in a farmhouse haunted by an ex-NAZI and his daughter in The Hatred, written and directed by Michael G. Kehoe. The horror genre has long attracted up-and-coming filmmakers willing to take risks on shoestring budgets. This sometimes leads to cinematic masterpieces but often amounts to trash fit for the landfill. This film belongs solidly in the latter category. This is probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The Hatred amounts to nothing more than a YouTube jumpscare short with a budget. [Read more…]

Rough Night. When Jessica “Jess” Thayer decides to plan a wedding while running for state senate, she’ll need a little help from her college friends, Alice, Frankie, Blair, and Pippa, to pull off a wild bachelorette party in Miami. Hilarity ensues when the ladies get drunk, snort a bunch of cocaine, and accidentally murder a male stripper, all while leading Jess’ loyal fiance, Peter, to believe she wants to cancel the wedding. In the end, they get away Scott free because, well, I guess manslaughter isn’t a thing in Florida. Comedy gold! This isn’t just a bad movie, it’s a morally reprehensible one. [Read more…]

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Movies I Liked in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for movies, and not just because of the real-life spectacle and drama coming from Hollywood. The old film studios aren’t just imploding due to sex scandals, they’re also imploding at the box office. The new Star Wars was the only thing staving off a dismal year. 2017’s summer movie season was the lowest grossing summer for the movie business in 25 years. There are more interesting films coming out on Netflix than being released in the theater. Several Netflix releases are among my favorite films of the year.

I certainly didn’t see every movie to come out in 2017, but here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):

Detroit. Written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Detroit dramatically recounts an incident in which three black men were allegedly murdered by police at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit Riot. Despite some creative license with characters, events, and dialog, Detroit feels authentic, and its emotional impact is incredible. Although Detroit doesn’t disguise its message, it isn’t entirely one-sided, showing the destructiveness of the mob and the efforts of some white policemen and authority figures try to combat the excesses of racist officers. By far the best historic drama of 2017. [Read more…]

Ingrid Goes West. A social-media obsessed woman with borderline personality disorder moves to Los Angeles to insert herself into another woman’s life, severely disrupting the lives of everyone she encounters in this dark comedy by debut writer-director Matt Spicer. Its humor mainly comes from Aubrey Plaza‘s performance as Ingrid Thorburn, the unfortunate young woman just looking for a best friend. It’s a shame the film didn’t do better at the box office, but its dark lampooning of our superficial obsession with social-media probably hit too close to home for most audiences. [Read more…]

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Stop Watching Propaganda

I recently saw this meme imploring “Trump voters” to turn off Fox News and pick up a “real newspaper.” I won’t argue about the biases of Fox. Despite plenty of Trump criticism on that network, everyone knows they advance a center-right perspective. But the idea there are “real newspapers” telling you what’s REALLY going on is laughable.

What is a real news source? The Washington Post? New York Times? CNN? Since President Trump got into office, they’ve lead a 24/7 assault against his administration. CNN has been caught lying about negative information about the president and even had to force the resignations of three “reporters” after they got caught.

Hollywood has joined the crusade by lionizing the Washington Post in a recent film, The Post (2017), which of course according to critics is one of the best films ever made (88% on Rotten Tomatoes). The narrative about “an unprecedented battle between the press and the government” (hmm, sounds familiar…) stars Meryl Streep, who used her Golden Globes speech to attack Trump.

So even though Fox is a favorite target for the left, let’s not pretend the other news outlets are telling you the unvarnished truth either. They are advancing their own agenda aided by allies in other forms of media and entertainment. There is no “real news” anymore–only propaganda. A great deal of critical thinking is required to sift through this partisan battle for the public’s hearts and minds.

As for the meme’s other claim, allow me to let you in on a little secret: every politician in the history of human civilization has lied to their constituents. That’s a truth you can always count on.

Is Hollywood Imploding?

The idea that Hollywood is a place where dirty old men lure young women (and sometimes boys) with promises of stardom has been around pretty much from its inception. It’s an open secret some call the “casting couch culture.” Harry Cohn, co-founder and president of Columbia Pictures until 1958, was rumored to have a private room next to his office for dalliances, and accusations against Harvey Weinstein go back decades.

Who, then, is surprised by rampant libertinism and degeneracy in the entertainment industry? It’s been on the cover of every tabloid magazine since the beginning of print media. So why have all these accusations of sexual improprieties suddenly bubbled to the surface, and does it have anything to do with declining ticket sales?

Forbes recently ran an article citing 2017’s summer movie season as the lowest grossing summer for the movie business in 25 years. While it mentioned fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it mainly blamed the rising cost of theater attendance and a generational preference for watching movies on mobile devices.

It’s true ticket and concession prices have become grossly over inflated, but these explanations hardly scratch the surface. Young people aren’t going to the theater because they’d rather watch movies on a phone? Ridiculous. I think it has much more to do with the poor quality of films coming out of Hollywood. Netflix has experienced tremendous growth partly because their original movies and series are compelling, funny, clever, and creative.

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