Archive for December, 2010

Tasty Broccoli

Tasty Broccoli

Throughout the history of film, there have been many different changes that have occurred that have also changed the way we look at cinema. While a trend may last a month or two, they can actually last decades. Trends are a normalcy in the film business. With this in mind, over the past few months, the film business has not changed a bit, as trends are even more popular now than they have ever been. Everyone is lining up to see or make the next addition to an ongoing trend, especially when there is money to be made. Also, as Oscar season approaches, lines are forming outside movie theaters for a movie that audiences have read about that may be up for Best Picture. While some of these films may actually be intellectually stimulating, the majority are nothing but mindless excrement. When making a film, the biggest problem among all of these film companies is that they don’t really know anything.

In mainstream cinema, before a film is made, analysts determine what films are popular and then ultimately determine what film to make. One will notice people are flocking to see a superhero movie, then immediately the next superhero film is planned. While this may seem like an easy strategy to earn money, it does not always work as planned as trends never have life expectancies. The purpose of riding the wave of a trend is simply to make more money in hopes of synergy[1]. Film companies believe that they will make more money with a film that already has an audience. Yet again, this seems pretty logical; however nothing can be easily predicted in the film business.

Throughout the months between September and December, a wide variety of films have come out. Many of them rushed to be released before the year ends to have a chance at the Academy Awards. Some of the popular trends that have bombarded the theaters these past few months are a special genre of film. This trending genre can span between documentary and narrative film and is sometimes referred to as, what I like to call, political films. These films, mainly documentaries, claim to expose truths, controversies, and scandals within military, government and large corporations in America. Documentaries first became famous by “their willingness to tackle controversial or unpopular subject matter.”[2] Such films include Inside Job, The Tillman Story, Restrepo, Freakonomics, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Client 9, Waiting for Superman, Casino Jack, etc. All of these mentioned films have been released in the span of two months and all share the same political genre. You would think that these film companies are up to something and following a worthy trend, but motives may be unclear.

According to Michael Cieply from the New York Times, this wave of political films is due to the Stock Market crash two years ago:  “given the allure of stories packed with conspiracies and villains […] it was probably inevitable that filmmakers should be delivering assessments of a crash exactly now. After all, it takes about two years for most feature films to catch up to real events.”[3] Cieply’s viewpoint may be plausible, because most of the political films released during these past few months have been about or somehow connected to the Wall Street crash two years ago. The film companies that made these films could have made them on the sole conclusion that these films would actually make money, but, once again, nothing is certain.

The main objective of these films is still unclear. While most of these films were produced by smaller independent companies, it could very well be that the objective was simply to make a good film. According to director Oliver Stone in an article in the New York Times about his film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, he made the film because “he thought that the industry had finally lost some of its swagger and that a fictional account that explored the depths of that period would tap into the national mood.”[4] It seems that Stone had the right idea, especially since this film is a sequel to a film that already had a large audience. It is also noted that Stone’s movie was probably the most successful in the box office out of the mentioned political films.

As these films were only limited released in New York City, the films did not reach their full potential and, therefore, did not or could not reach expected financial goals. However, while it may not seem like these films are hits, there is a strong chance at least one of them will make a comeback. In an article in the New York Times, Brook Barnes analyzes films that have only become successful outside of the theater. Barnes uses examples of films such as Kick-Ass and Date Night, of which have shown tremendous increase in revenue with DVD sales than box office results. [5] With this being said, one of the mentioned political films may have a comeback after the Academy Awards, as it is almost certain at least one of these films will be nominated for Best Documentary.

In light of the “Oscar Race” another “truth revealing” film expected to have a comeback in revenue is the acclaimed The Social Network, which “has been seen for weeks as the film to beat for best picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. But its less than spectacular performance in its opening weekend has shifted the playing field.”[6] From this example alone, it should be noted that box office results do not offer a shoe-in for Best Picture. Of course, there are exceptions: according to Barnes and Cieply, Toy Story 3 will most likely be nominated due to its $1.1 billion in global ticket sales. This is the same example of Avatar, a film whose only precedent was that it cost a lot of money and made a lot of money (The only difference being that Woody’s boot had more originality and substance than the whole film of Avatar). Other films, such as King’s Speech and Black Swan, have been rushed to be released before the year’s end to fight against Toy Story 3 and The Social Network. While not all of the films that are nominated for Best Picture are trends, Inception is a film that has started a trend in the science-fiction genre as the film has been compared, financially, to last year’s Avatar. [7] All of these mentioned films have all done well, and are almost certain to have ignited trends in the near future.

With the political independent films, the end objective could have very well been that the film companies simply wanted to make films that actually had value. At a film seminar at the Center for Communications, one of the speakers compared a good film to broccoli. To go a bit further than the speaker: broccoli can be cooked and spiced up to taste a lot better than it does raw. In the same sense, a film can be spiced up with violence, special effects, or sex to reach a wider audience instead of being raw and grainy with all facts and no added substance. Broccolis with artificial flavoring, stewed, flavored or combo-ed with your Chinese takeout are all examples of the mainstream movies of today. A film company does not look for a “raw broccoli” or simple intelligent artistic film, but rather one that tastes good to the audience.

[1] “Movies and The Impact of Images.” Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 24i. Print.

[2] “Movies and The Impact of Images.” Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: an Introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 230. Print.

[3] “Documentaries Zero in on Wall Street, and They Show No Mercy”. By Michael Cieply. New York Times. Sept. 9, 2010.

[4] “A Walk Through Oliver Stone’s Thoughts on Wall Street Today”. By Andrew R. Sorkin. The New York Times. Sept. 14, 2010.

[5] “Even a Hit Can Seem Like a Miss at its Debut”. By Brook Barnes. The New York Times. Sept. 6, 2010.

[6] “A Shifting Oscar Race Heats Up”. By Michael Cieply and Brook Barnes. The New York Times. Oct. 6, 2010.

[7] “Profit Rises at Time Warner And at News Corporation”. By Tim Arango. The New York Times. Nov. 3, 2010.


I have seen and enjoyed almost every movie Luc Besson has had any involvement in. Somehow, this movie managed to escape me and I only just recently heard about it as I researched the actor Jamel Debbouze (Days of Glory, Outside the Law). This film presents the story in crisp black and white, of a man named Andre who is in debt, and an angel comes to rescue. In a Fight Club-esque manner, we are lead astray on whether to believe this angel is real or a figment of the protagonist’s mind. The angel, comically towering over Jamel, is beautiful and not easily swayed. Like Andre, we are actually skeptical in the way she first helps helps him: whoring. Judging from the film’s use of editing techniques this aspect shows it’s dark humor, or representing the polar opposite of this beautiful angel. Whether we like to believe what she is doing or if she even exists is almost irrelevant, as we can’t help but follow her and Andre through the film. I believe the film to be very well made, especially the cinematography, music and use of dark humor. Dark humor is a genre not easily accomplished, as some find it offensive. This film, in particular, is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, instead it is simply a thoughtful comedy. Not a sappy, cheesy one, but lighthearted and…I guess French. Definetly check it out.

Shot some footage today, went well.

Might have to do a re-shoot, since the only editing program I have to work with is iMovie and it is not cooperating with me.

I learned something today: When you interview someone you know is crazy, don’t expect them to show their true self in front of a camera.

The central topic for my film will most likely be the relationships between people in the cooped up community of a Bronx boatyard. (as told by in interviews)

Also, I am working on an inventory list of my large collection of DVDs. This list will be posted in the “Your Suggestions” category.

In other news:

School is almost over for me as finals are coming up in the next three weeks. I have made a short parody film for my science class.