Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Movies are Art Rather Than Product


There is a major problem that has occurred in film journalism and discussion over the last decade. I've been writing professionally about movies since 2012 (when I broke in with the now defunct but great while it lasted Collective Publishing Company), and I've seen the gradual increase of the commodification of movies. I realize movies have always been a business and many are owned by giant studios with the goal of making money being central, but over the past several years, I've seen critics and journalist write and talk about film more as business rather than art.

I am not just talking about the stream of trailer reviews or discussion on press releases that has turned reporting mostly into free advertising for the movie studios. I'm also pointing to the language that we use to describe films that make them resemble a power tool or box of cereal rather than a work of art. When you read articles today or listen to podcast discussions, it is almost inevitable you will hear or read movies being described with words like 'franchise', 'brand', 'content', and 'product'.

I must confess that I've used every single one of those words to describe movies and I am embarrassed to admit that I will frequently use them many more times in the future, I'm sure. The words are so ingrained in the conversation about movies and television today that it is a scaling Everest during a blizzard type challenge to consciously avoid them. I still think their constant use is harmful to movie discussion.

The word 'franchise' makes me think I'm ordering a Big Mac or getting an oil change. It is a word  tied with business and making money. As much as I adore Star Wars, I think its box office success played a big part in 'franchise' being a way to describe a movie series. While I do think George Lucas cared about the quality of his movies and did have an artistic vision, he was also one of the first filmmakers that really saw the financial potential in a popular movie. He was a major part in popular movie images being slapped on lunch boxes and beds adorned with the movie hero and the most popular toys connected with our favourite movies and theme parks revealing rides based on movies and essentially, almost any product being able to be branded by a stuff like Indiana Jones, Star Wars or Cars. It also led to several cartoon TV series in the 1980s largely existing, so they could sell more toys like He-Man Masters of the Universe or Care Bears. The mass ancillary products of popular movies that become a major part of blockbusters in 1980s makes it hard to not label the biggest hit movies as \franchises' and 'brands.'

'Content' as a term to describe movies or TV series seems to have been birthed from the rise of streaming services and especially Netflix. There is no doubt in my mind that Netflix deems their programming as 'content.' It is just stuff to fill spaces in their service and quality is far less important than quantity. This isn't to say that Netflix hasn't created great shows and movies. Roma was a strong Best Picture contender last year and I think, Netflix has played a strong part in bringing back the romcom with quality movies like Set It Up, Always Be My Maybe and To All the Boys I Loved Before. But after reviewing many of the Netflix Original movies, I can say that most aim to be passable, as a thing you can watch in the background while you fold your laundry or do your taxes. Most of them are not awful but also not really good, but just things you watch to pass time and forget about right after watching. It really is 'content' and much like mass producing jars of peanut butter, it is 'product' too.

Let me make something clear, I understand that movies are designed to make money. Here is the thing, almost every artist and creator aspires and desires to make money off their work. I know there are exceptions of those that wear the badge of the 'starving artist' with honour or those that purposefully hold down a completely different job so that they can write novels or paint pictures or make sculptures for free. But as someone who aspires to be a novelist and a person who has friends who are artists and musicians and writers, I know each of them want to make a living on their work because it allows them to focus on it more. Each of these artists may do things for hire, but they still add their own creativity and style and put great pride into their work. They want to make money, but they still see their works as art.

Movies are art. My guess is that most filmmakers would agree with me. Most probably put a lot of pride into their work. But the current environment is one where movies are treated and talked about as consumer products with its greatest value being if it can sell. That is a real shame and devalues the messages, stories and creativity that movies have.

One of the big problems has been movie writer have been focusing more and more on box office. While I think there is a place for talking about the box office, the issue is that there has been such an obsession with box office that the value of a movie has been connected with what they earned. I've read and heard critics call a movie a disaster or flop entirely based off how it did financially, and I think that is really harmful for discussing and analyzing movies. You can look at the business side of movies, but when looking at the value of a movie, it should be entirely separate from how much money it made. When discussing a movie, it is the creativity and story and originality and artistry that matters and its success in the box office has nothing to do with it. RIPD is not bad because it flopped in the box office, but because it was sloppily made and feels like a low-rent Men in Black.

The problem is I'll read and hear an older movie get disparaged even though the critic didn't even see the film and is totally based off its financials. I don't care how much a movie has made. People constantly whine about how there are no original ideas or that everything is a big super hero movie now, but then attacking original movies because they didn't draw an audience. A movie writer should try to find those bombs and champion them, so they can stay in the conversation or find an audience. There seems to be this movement where some writers get glee from a movie bombing and I feel that is detrimental to the movie conversation. We don't see people caring how much Leonardo da Vinci made on his paintings or judging a sculpture by how much it was sold for, but rather we appreciate the artistry of the work. This is something that desperately needs to return to movie analysis.

I say this as someone who has talked about box office and even does a yearly Summer Box Office Challenge on The Movie Breakdown. I think, there is a time to talk box office, but itis more important to remember to analyze and discuss the artistry and themes and creativity of movies. The Nice Guys and Blade Runner 2049 did not find an audience,. but that does not take away from them being movies that I feel are worth tracking down and talked about.

Movies reflect our society. Movies are a celebration of life. Movie give us a window into the world and creator. They have so much more value than just how much they make for a studio. I think as writers and fans of movie, we need to concentrate on that and encourage talk about their story and technical merit and character development and what it says about the world. I think, we need to seek out and champion the movies that did get forgotten or ignored. Especially for critics, it is mandatory to try to find ways to uncover hidden gems and allow high quality movies to continue to be discussed and watched.

It is valuable try to see those smaller movies and the ones that didn't find an audience. It is also just as important to not forget about the history of movies. Any movie fan should try to seek out not just classic movies but older movies that maybe once were hits that have been forgotten or those that were always under the radar. The goal should be to see as many different movies as possible. Movies are art and all art can be presented in different and unique ways, and a movie fan or critic should try to expose themselves to as many kinds of movies as possible. We need to embrace the artistry of filmmaking.

Yes, studios make movies to earn money. The filmmaker obviously hopes a movie is a financial success. But most important of all, movies are art. They continue to have value and importance even when they flop at the box office. The conversation and analysis can continue for years. Movie are so much more than just a business and that is something we need to remember more than ever.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Breakdown of 'Spider-Man Far from Home', 'Crawl', 'Mirage', 'The Black Godfather' and Remembering Rip Torn


We are now deep into the summer movie season, which means we still have some big explosive tentpoles, but some mid-budget genre fare starts making its way out too. This week we review one of the biggest movies of the summer in the latest instalment of the adventures of our favourite neighbourhood superhero in Spider-Man Far from Home. You want some genre fun, then how about a young woman trying to save her father from a house being flooded by a hurricane, and oh yeah, it has ferocious alligators as well in the horror thriller, Crawl. It has been awhile since we reviewed an international picture, so we discuss a Spanish sci-fi thriller in Mirage. We also review a documentary about a little known but very influential music manager in The Black Godfather. After all that, we look at the career of talented actor Rip Torn.

We had a great time recording the show and we really hope you love it. If you do enjoy it, then please help us out by spreading the word on social media. Also, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or whatever podcatcher you use, as it will really helps us out in the rankings. As always, thank you so much for supporting and listening to us.

Reminder that you can subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).



Four Star Movie Rating:

Spider-Man Far from Home *** (CS) 
Mirage *½ (CS & SM)
Crawl *** (CS)
The Black Godfather *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)

The Summer Box Office Challenge Draft Picks:

Scott:

1. The Lion King
2. Hobbs and Shaw
3. Detective Pikachu - $54 365 242
4. The Secret Life of Pets 2 $46 652 680
5. Men in Black International $30 035 838
6. Annabelle Comes Home $20 269 723
7. Angry Birds 2
8. Shaft $8 901 419
9. Dora and the Lost City of Gold
10. Long Shot $9 740 064
Total: $169 964 516

Christopher:

1. Toy Story 4 $120 908 065
2. Spider-Man Far from Home $92 579 212
3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters $47 776 293
4. Aladdin $91 500 929
5. X-Men: Dark Phoenix $32 828 348
6. Rocketman $25 725 722
7. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum: $56 818 067
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
9. Child's Play (replaced Artemis Fowl$14 094 594
10. Ma $18 099 805
Total: $500 331 035

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

RIP '80s All Over' Podcast - An Ambitious, Innovative and Great Movie Review Show


I think, that I've promoted the 80s All Over podcast on this site and I know I referenced it a few times on The Movie Breakdown podcast. The podcast was hosted by film critics Scott Weinberg and Drew McWeeny and they were reviewing every major theatrical release of the decade that was the 1980s one month at a time. The first episode was January 1980 and then every two weeks they would explore the next month, and they had reached April 1985 until they had to take an eighty-day hiatus to work some things out.

Before those eighty days were up, they announced the end of 80s All Over.

As a huge fan of the show, this was a real bummer to read. I also realize that reviewing every major release of an entire decade is an incredibly ambitious and near impossible project. I am pretty sure they reviewed close to thirty movies on some episodes. That is a lot of movies to track down and watch over two weeks. Scott and I find it a lot to review as many movies as we do for our show and we tend to max out at five a week. I get how it eventually just became too much to sustain.

The amount of work to do 80s All Over was a full-time job, except for them it was only a side gig. They did have a Patreon for the podcast, but it never was enough to justify the massive work load. Both Drew and Scott had other jobs. and from what I surmise, it was mostly writing movie reviews and other movie related articles supported by their other Patreons (Scott's is here and this is Drew's). Both guys have written for various outlets and have been writing professionally for decades. They are very insightful and entertaining, and they are definitely worth supporting.

As for 80s All Over, the site is still up, and my guess, is that they intend for it to stay up even if they aren't going to produce any new episodes. It is sad that it will never make it to the end of the decade, but the episodes that they created were informative, entertaining, funny, sincere and enriching. It opened me up to a bunch of movies that I either never heard about or have forgotten. It was also a great stroll down memory lane and gave me the warmth of nostalgia, as I was a kid that decade and saw many of the movies they mentioned at the theatre. They even talk about Yor the Hunter from he Future, which I still vividly remember seeing at a theatre with my dad, even though it is quite awful (he is a caveman who must dodge laser beams).

If you never listened to an episode and you enjoy The Movie Breakdown, then this is something you would really enjoy. Please check it out, as you have half a decade worth of movie reviews you can enjoy before it is all over. My intention is to re-listen to each episode.

It was comfort food. It was something very special. It is something I will really miss. I want to thank Drew and Scott (and their producer Bobby) for all the hard work and one of the best podcasts that I ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Thank you 80s All Over, you truly were something special.

Monday, July 08, 2019

The Breakdown of the Best of 2019 So Far. . . Sort Of


We recorded what we thought was a really great The Breakdown of the Best of 2019 So Far episode Sunday morning, but unfortunately, we can't post it because technical issues ended up erasing everything we did. The episode is now entirely lost into the abyss. We have decided that it would be too hard to replicate the episode, and besides that, the show takes up a decent amount of time to record. Sadly, we won't have a Best of the Mid Year show this year.

But the good news, is that the show is mostly us bestowing awards to movies and performances, and listing our five favourite movies of the year so far. A lost episode has not stolen our memories, so we can at least present our picks here. You just won't be able to listen to all discussion and meanderings. Once again, we apologize for not being able to post an episode this week. If we get back in the good graces of technology, we will have a new episode next Monday.

Favourite Scene: 'Battle in the Library' - John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum (CS)/ 'Final Battle' - Avengers: Endgame (SM)

Best Cameo: Patrick Stewart - The Kid Who Would Be King (CS)/ Keanu Reeves - Always Be My Maybe (SM)

Best Performance: Lupita Nyong'o - Us and Robert Downey Jr - Avengers: Endgame (CS)/ Olivia Wilde - A Vigilante (SM)

Most Delightful Surprise: Escape Room (CS)/ Room for Rent (SM)

Best Underrated/Underseen Movie: Long Shot (CS)/Giant Little Ones (SM)

Worst Picture: The Silence (CS)/The Final Wish (SM)

Top Five Picture of 2019 So Far

Christopher:

5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
4. Rocketman
3. Toy Story 4
2. Avengers: Endgame
1. Us

Scott:

5. A Vigilante
4. Always Be My Maybe
3. The Kid Who Would Be King
2. Gloria Bell
1. Avengers: Endgame

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The Hiatus You Won't Even Notice


The blog is going to be taking a hiatus for the rest of the week.

I know what question just popped in your head, 'How is that different than every other week?' Sadly, it isn't.

Every few weeks, I apologize for the lack of articles on here and promise a busier place right around the corner. Then the corner turns out to be a circle and we just keep looping around in the same place. This has been a horrible year (or two) for those that like to read my stuff. Depression and anxiety have been ruling the emotional land, and after spending the day looking after my kids and doing other paid writing work, there isn't much left in me to provide the type of pieces that I want on here.

But I am waving my hands and declaring it is going to get better.

Just not until next week.

The sad reality is you won't notice a different of me being away from my computer this week compared to all the weeks that I am available to post pieces. This has essentially become the site where I post The Movie Breakdown once a week.

But I want it to be much better than that. I want to have at least daily content. I want to start moving forward in slowly rebranding the site. Make it a pop culture and movie review site with the spin of being a highly invested father. Looking at news and movies with some strong personal and honest touches influenced by being a dad. If people care, offer up some occasional looks at my personal life and how that impacts my views on movies.

I really want this site to grow. I would love a much bigger audience both for the site and the podcast. My goal is to really focus on seeing if I have enough talent to build a real audience and following. If I do, then the intention is to look into either Patreon or some major sponsors. If there is a chance at making some of my living from this, then I obviously can provide even better articles and more content (because it will cut down me needing to write sales copy and brochures).

The reality is that I am months and maybe even years away from that being viable at this point. Right now, I just need to focus on writing quality stuff on here every single day. If my stuff is worth your time, then I trust an audience will make its way here. I hope.

But first, I am going to be on a hiatus until the start of next week. I will use this time to come up with some ideas and recharge the batteries. See you then and look forward to this site becoming a much more exciting place.

Monday, July 01, 2019

The Breakdown of 'Annabelle Comes Home', 'Yesterday' and 'Beats'


Happy Canada Day to all our Canadian listeners, and for our American fans, happy almost Independence Day. We forgot to make those well-wishes on the show, but we did remember to serve up three movie reviews. The big one is the supernatural horror sequel, Annabelle Comes Home, which is the latest in the Conjure-verse. We also have a high concept romantic comedy about a failed singer who ends up being the only one who remembers the Beatles in Yesterday. We also discuss another Netflix original movie, and this one stars Anthony Anderson as a guy who mentors a troubled music prodigy in Beats. Then Scott catches up on tons of movies with several mini reviews and includes movies like Us and Captain Marvel. We also discuss if original movies can still be box office hits or if they need to have a recognizable brand.

As always it was a pleasure recording the show and we really appreciate you listening to us. If you loved the show, then please help us out by spreading the word on social media. It will help us grow and be able to provide more episodes and content.

Reminder that you can subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).



Four Star Movie Rating:

Annabelle Comes Home *** (CS) 
Beats ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Yesterday *** (CS)

The Summer Box Office Challenge Draft Picks:

Scott:

1. The Lion King
2. Hobbs and Shaw
3. Detective Pikachu - $54 365 242
4. The Secret Life of Pets 2 $46 652 680
5. Men in Black International $30 035 838
6. Annabelle Comes Home $20 269 723
7. Angry Birds 2
8. Shaft $8 901 419
9. Dora and the Lost City of Gold
10. Long Shot $9 740 064
Total: $169 964 516

Christopher:

1. Toy Story 4 $120 908 065
2. Spider-Man Far from Home
3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters $47 776 293
4. Aladdin $91 500 929
5. X-Men: Dark Phoenix $32 828 348
6. Rocketman $25 725 722
7. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum: $56 818 067
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
9. Child's Play (replaced Artemis Fowl$14 094 594
10. Ma $18 099 805
Total: $407 751 823

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Breakdown of Our 300th Episode - 'Toy Story 4', 'Child's Play'. 'Murder Mystery' and 'See You Yesterday'


It is our 300th episode. We've been doing this since 2013 and have reviewed hundreds of movies. Today we will review four more. We got a huge one in the Pixar animated adventure and follow-up to a classic in Toy Story 4. We keep up the theme of talking toys with the more sinister Child's Play. Speaking of evil talking toys, we have the latest Adam Sandler movie in Murder Mystery. Finally, we look at a time travelling drama produced by Spike Lee with See You Yesterday. Then we celebrate our 300th episode by looking back at how we came up with this show, how it has evolved and share some of our favourite moments.

As always, we had a great time recording the show and we really hope you love it. If you do, then please spread the word to other movie fans. We really want to thank you for listening to us for 300 episodes and hope you stay with us for 300 more.

Reminder that you can subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).



Four Star Movie Rating:

Murder Mystery ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Toy Story 4 **** (CS)
See You Yesterday ** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Child's Play *** (CS)

The Summer Box Office Challenge Draft Picks:

Scott:

1. The Lion King
2. Hobbs and Shaw
3. Detective Pikachu - $54 365 242
4. The Secret Life of Pets 2 $46 652 680
5. Men in Black International $30 035 838
6. Annabelle Comes Home
7. Angry Birds 2
8. Shaft $8 901 419
9. Dora and the Lost City of Gold
10. Long Shot $9 740 064
Total: $149 695 243

Christopher:

1. Toy Story 4 $120 908 065
2. Spider-Man Far from Home
3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters $47 776 293
4. Aladdin $91 500 929
5. X-Men: Dark Phoenix $32 828 348
6. Rocketman $25 725 722
7. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum: $56 818 067
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
9. Child's Play (replaced Artemis Fowl) $14 094 594
10. Ma $18 099 805
Total: $407 751 823