Sunday Random Weekly Roundup

Welcome back, dear readers–all five or so of you. 😉

I’ve got another three items for you this Sunday, so maybe that will be the gold standard. We’ll see. First up is the news from The Hollywood Reporter that folks who crowdfund films will soon (Sept. 23) be able to have a stake–beyond a psychological one–in the films they help fund. This is great news for filmmakers from Spike Lee to, as someone put it, “the little guy” (or girl) because it will provide filmmakers with access to more money, and encourage investing.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/forget-kickstarter-how-obamas-new-600233?goback=.gde_4185270_member_264611260

More filmmakers making more films is great. My question is…will anybody get to see them? The biggest problem with the film industry right now is the distribution system. There are already tons of movies that 99% of the people who go to movies not only can’t see, they don’t even know they exist. According to Film Journal, there were 1,299 films made in the EU in 2012. (And this includes projects like Taken 2, which isn’t exactly showing audiences something they haven’t seen before.) How many of those films made it to any screen in the U.S.? (I actually couldn’t find an answer to that question–if anyone knows where to look, please let me know!)

The Intouchables, the highest-grossing movie in a language other than English, with $281 million worldwide (at least in 2012), had a total release of 194 screens. There were NINE films that played on 4K+ screens. Nine. Those nine were produced by five companies playing it safe and drowning the public in marketing for those films. Of those nine films there was only one–Pixar’s Brave–that was not part of a series. (And, honestly, a Pixar movie is something of a series, given that there’s a built-in audience for pretty much anything they do. While we’re on the subject–Planes, really?) Of the remaining eight, The Hunger Games was the only one that was not a sequel. *sigh* This is not to bash on sequels or series. I loved The Avengers and I loved Skyfall, and I’m glad I got to see them in movie theaters. But surely there’s a way to get more films to more theaters.

Roughly 19% of the films released in the US were on 2k+ screens; roughly 68% were on fewer than 500, and most of those were on under 100. Presumably, if the big production companies stopped sinking so much of their money into so few films (and their military campaign-like publicity), things might improve. The reason Spike Lee is crowdfunding his new film is at least as much the result of his films not being distributed widely enough to make enough money to make a studio invest in his next project, as it is with the quality or (potential) popularity of the film itself.

Director Steven Soderbergh gave a wonderful(ly depressing) “State of Cinema” talk at the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival that addresses just this issue, which you can read at the above link.

Okay. Rant over.

Moving on…

Something I’m excited about in a good way is George Clooney’s Monuments Men, scheduled for release in December.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CreneTs7sGs&w=560&h=315]

The film is an adaptation of Robert M. Edsel’s nonfiction book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. (The title makes it sound like Edsel–or his publishers–knew it would make a great film. “In a world…”) Clooney co-adapted the screenplay, and the trailer looks sort of like Ocean’s Eleven have parachuted in to rescue Europe’s great works of art. Which is obviously a fantastic idea for a film. You can barely see that Bill Murray’s in the trailer, but you can’t miss the mercurial Cate Blanchett, whom I could watch reading a phone book–silently, to herself. And, chouette! Jean Dujardin is in there somewhere as well.

This also gives me the opportunity to mention a similar, but much less fun film released in 2006: the documentary The Rape of Europa, based on the eponymous book by Lynn Nicholas. It covers the same topic, the Nazi looting of Europe’s art, more broadly than Monuments Men, including some discussion of the Führer’s taste (or lack thereof) in art. The film quite riveting, actually–see, the Toronto Star says so right there–and it’s streaming on Netflix. (And apparently on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRYBdw3GdVw )

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0iL7k_R0LM&w=560&h=315]

I saw The Rape of Europa at the 2007 Wisconsin Film Festival. According to IMDb.com, the film played a number of festivals (a few others are listed on the film’s site), and it had a theatrical release in New York. And that was it. My sense is that right now–and for the last decade or so–film festivals are the only places to see a real variety of films, domestic or international. Fortunately, there are now more film festivals than ever. (There are a few listed to the right, under the Blogroll.)

And finally…

I’m going to make this short…in fact, I’m only going to mention it, since this post is already longer than usual. It deserves its own post, in any case. That is actually the issue–whether Wonder Woman can have her own superhero movie. Browsing the internet instead of doing something productive, I came across this:

10 Superheroes Who Really Don’t Need Their Own Movie

Naturally, I clicked on it. Wonder Woman is number three. The title of the slide show, it turns out, is misleading. The writers make the argument that Warner’s is incapable of doing a good job, and the implication is that that’s because they can’t get it together to deal with a female superhero. Here’s what the writers of the article (two guys and one person with a gender-ambiguous name, in case you’re wondering) conclude:

“We don’t think it’s impossible to make a good Wonder Woman movie, but if Warner is uncomfortable with everything that defines who she is and where she came from, then it’s better they not make one at all than make one that redefines her so completely that she’s no longer really Wonder Woman.”

So we don’t get a Wonder Woman movie because it’s too difficult to get it right…instead we get the regular summer shower of shitty superhero movies: Green Lantern (2011), Cat Woman (2004), Fantastic Four (2005) and its mind-numbingly awful 2007 sequel, Superman Returns (2006), which managed to screw up even with Parker Posey and Kevin Spacey, and the Green Hornet (2011), which couldn’t get it together with Michel Gondry directing and Christoph Waltz as the villain. It’s certainly true that modern Hollywood does not have a great track record with female superheroes…or women generally (or minorities, of course). To wit: the aforementioned Cat Woman, Supergirl (1984) and Elecktra (2005). But the argument that a major studio is too sexist or stupid (or both) to get it right doesn’t seem like one you really want to get behind.

Turns out there’s been a slew of articles about the elusive WW film, so more on that soon. In the meantime, here’s the opening to the TV show, which ran for five seasons, and makes the point in the first lines of the theme song: All the world is waiting for you. Of course, that’s followed up by: In your satin tights/fighting for your rights. (But those boots are undeniably awesome.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DDdxmoxduQ&w=420&h=315]

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