Film, art and life

Tarantino loves to tell interviewers that his life is movies; that nothing will, or should, interfere.  He has said that he’s not going to have kids because now is his time for making movies.   Basically he is saying that he will not participate in life because he’s too busy making movies.

Part of me, the part having stuff thrown in my face by my kid as I write this, is envious of Tarantino.  Tarantino has made a lot more movies than me and all of them got more attention than the one I made.  But then, except for his first couple films, which had Keitel or Samuel Jackson providing the emotional lifting, his films are lifeless renditions of the idea of movie cool.  I’m sure Tarantino lost a lot of his cool when he turned 40 – I know I did – so what’s left?   What experiences does he have to draw on that have any relationship to the lives that most of us lead – you know, the ones who do get married and have kids or go to college or do other ordinary things?

I didn’t mean to rag on Tarantino because I think most of Hollywood has the same problem – it’s just that Tarantino brags about it.  In Hollywood, they are all driven, hard working overachievers who don’t have the time or ability to connect with their spouses or their kids.  So who do we see in Hollywood movies?  Driven, hard working overachievers who can’t connect with their spouses or kids.  How many times have you seen the plot where the hero’s(or heroine’s) only flaw is that they are too committed to their job to have a relationship that works?  That’s not all we get.  We get spoiled kids that are supposed to be cute.  We get wives that are 20 years younger than their husbands (whose neighborhood does that happen in?).  We get a lot of gawking over fancy cars and other expensive stuff.   These people are so lost in their world of movie deals and power lunches that they have no idea how the rest of the world actually lives.

What you get, more often than not, is their mundane fantasy of what it must be like living life, because they have no idea.

If it works at all, it’s because it rests on the emotional talents of its stars. In Hollywood, and in the movies it makes, stars are the most important thing.    Life takes a bit part.

Listening to people talk about movies

If you ever wonder why concept is king in Hollywood, listen to someone tell you about a movie they just saw. (It helps if they liked it.)  This is how word of mouth spreads, and word of mouth is, by far, the most valuable and least soul destroying means of advertising.  Hollywood has gotten better at controlling, or at least directing, this word of mouth (as I’ve talked about before), but what makes it work is a simplicity in a story, or a hook, or something that makes it easy for someone to tell someone else what the movie is about.

Conversations like this happen all the time, and once in a while, I overhear one that really makes me think about how I’m telling my own stories because, once you’ve seen a film, it’s generally pretty easy to describe it whereas when it’s not a film yet, it isn’t that easy.  But lets just take a couple recent films and see how the conversation might go.

CHARLIE: I saw The Hangover last night.

SUSAN: Oh yeah, what’s that?  I haven’t heard of that.

CHARLIE: It was funny.  It was about these guys who wake up after a bachelor party and the groom is missing and none of them remember anything.

SUSAN: Oh.  That sounds good.

See how easy it was for Charlie to tell Susan what the movie was?  He just pitched it, probably as well as the guys who made it.  It works for more esoteric stuff too, especially once this door has been opened, because the conversation continues along the lines of…

CHARLIE: Yeah, there’s this scene it where this naked guy jumps out of a car.

SUSAN: That sounds kind of sophomoric to me.  But I like that!

CHARLIE: Then you’d love this movie!  It’s totally retarded!

SUSAN: My brother’s retarded.

CHARLIE: Oh, sorry.

SUSAN: Just kidding!  I love saying the word retarded!

CHARLIE: Me too!  Let’s go to Vegas and get married, just like that scene in the Hangover where the guy marries the hooker!

SUSAN: I am soo there!

After the Apocalypse

I saw District 9 last night (good movie), but there were five trailers that all featured different degrees of the end of the world. What’s going on?

One factor is probably that, in their rush to build on franchises, Hollywood has been buying up video games and making movies out of them, and a good deal of them take place in some sort of apocalyptic world.

Then there’s the idea that Hollywood has to continually up the ante on special effects – and the grand daddy of them all is watching the world get blown up.

There have been apocalyptic films before, but I was hard pressed to think of any that were made before 1970. Obviously, nuclear weapons were part of it and probably still are.

It probably also has to do with the fact that many of these films were greenlit back when the economy was right on the edge of the cliff that it was about to fall off of: about a year and a half ago.

Hopefully this isn’t some sort of cosmic sign sent to us to warn us. I remember that just before 9/11 there was a sudden surge in the movies that had important shots of the WTC. There was even a Spider Man trailer where Spidey caught a helicopter with a web spun between the twin towers.

Anyway, enough is enough. As I said, there were five trailers and except for Jennifer’s Body, they all took place after the apocalypse. There was even a Zombie comedy with Woody Harrelson. And these trailers didn’t include 2012 or The Road. It’s hard to imagine that all of these are going to find an audience because they all look the same.