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The geek stranglehold on cinema
September 5, 2010 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Fawned over by the studios, the geek contingent has never been more influential in shaping movies. But are the fanboys in danger of killing the thing they love? The geek stranglehold on cinema.
posted by jonesor (113 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related.

I think that, at least when it comes to comic book movies, more of the problems have resulted from studio meddling than fanboy wishes. Spider-Man 3 is an excellent example of this - Raimi wanted to conclude Harry Osborn's story and introduce the Sandman. Marvel/Sony wanted the black costume and Venom (admittedly, to appease some of those fanboys...but I'm willing to bet most would have rather foregone Venom to have one good villain). The results speak for themselves - while I didn't hate Spider-Man 3 the way a lot of people seem to (I thought the dancing scene was hilarious), there's no denying it's not anywhere near as good as its predecessor(s).

Iron Man 2, another movie I really liked, suffered from the same problem of Marvel forcing The Avengers into it at every turn to set up other films in the franchise. Again, I don't think it was nearly as bad as some people do, but the studio definitely meddled in the process, and I'm a little worried to see how Thor and Captain America will turn out.

Jonah Hex was another victim of studio interference. If you haven't seen the movie - and odds are you haven't - there are large chunks of character development and plot that were excised from the movie entirely, and Megan Fox's character (who's barely in the movie) was made more prominent in the advertising. Add in the fact that the very nature of the character was changed from borderline sociopathic bounty hunter to "gruff but lovable good guy with magic powers" and the really, really awful closing scene, and one gets the impression that Warner Bros. took what could have been a below-mediocre movie and turned it into a pretty awful one.
posted by HostBryan at 1:43 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


nerds – or geeks, as they prefer to call themselves
???
I wasn't aware one term was preferred over the other.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:52 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Fawned over by the studios.." sort of like, well, veal young cattle.
posted by HuronBob at 1:55 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


We're in a really really bad era for movies right now. Really bad stuff coming from the studios, and the indie faux-teurs too. Just not much to get excited about, outside the occasional Scott Pilgrim or Charlie Kaufman movie.

If you look back at the body of work from the studios in the '80s, BOY is the comparison not favorable. Action movies have gotten bloated and dumb, and the CG effects look awful. Comedy has been reduced to a parade of blindingly-obvious Will Ferrell-style stupidity with ever-diminishing returns. Besides the one movie by Kaufman every three years, drama is pretty much non-existent. Standards are so low that people are saying with a straight face that dreck like Iron Man or the new Star Trek deserves awards.

I found all the Spider-man and Iron Man movies I have seen to be borderline-unwatchable, and the latest Batman was a sloppy mess only redeemed when Heath Ledger was on screen. But one look at a marquee will tell you it's not unique to superhero films- studios are perfectly capable of making bloated, 2+ hour pieces of crap in every genre.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:59 PM on September 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Worst. Article. Ever.
posted by iviken at 2:02 PM on September 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


I find the analysis to be mostly correct, and don't really care for the current trend of superhero/geek fanservice movies, but do not see it being replaced by anything too exciting any time soon: When making a movie is a multi-million dollar enterprise, you cannot expect the people making it to be anything else but conservative.

nerds – or geeks, as they prefer to call themselves

The canonical distinction is that a nerd is just socially awkward, a geek is intensely interested in some specific subject and may or may not bee socially awkward as a result. People have been co-opting the geek label right and left lately, to describe anybody with an interest (and assumed proficiency) in anything.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wasn't aware one term was preferred over the other.

A concise guide the etymology.
posted by griphus at 2:08 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Geek stranglehold? More like family fun (read: kids) stranglehold.

Here are the ten most successful films of the year so far:

1 Toy Story 3
2 Alice in Wonderland
3 Iron Man 2
4 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
5 Inception
6 Shrek Forever After
7 Despicable Me
8 How to Train Your Dragon
9 The Karate Kid
10 Clash of the Titans

What I see here are eight-and-a-half movies that are aimed at highschoolers or their younger siblings. And Inception, the only one that does not seem to be in Happy Meal-tie-in territory, left me cold. Iron Man 2, the borderline case, was adequate at best.

Ten years ago:

1 How the Grinch Stole Christmas
2 Cast Away
3 Mission: Impossible II
4 Gladiator
5 What Women Want
6 The Perfect Storm
7 Meet the Parents
9 Scary Movie
10 What Lies Beneath

That is not an inspiring slate of deathless cinema, I grant you, but at least most of these movies were targeting people who had already grown pubic hair.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:13 PM on September 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


You can't really compare two years like you just did. What Women Want and Cast Away, How the Grinch Stole Christmas came out in December of that year and Grinch in November.
posted by griphus at 2:23 PM on September 5, 2010


A concise guide the etymology.

And nobody should want to be any of those. As someone who was (probably rightly) called all of those names as a kid, I do not appreciate the increased popularity and casual use of those words. "Oh, ha ha, I'm such a geek 'cause I know how to use an iPhone!"
posted by gjc at 2:24 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, we haven't had Oscar Season yet this year. That said, 2010 seems like a bit of a duffer compared with 2009 or the recent heights of 2007.

Inception was a nice suprise though.

Scott Pilgrim, of course, was Nerdy and genuinely good, and so bombed horribly.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2010


A great article. I am sick to death of nerd crap. Nerds can do great things, and science fiction can be thought-provoking and groundbreaking. Nowadays, tho', it's just infantile escapism whose elevation has resulted in the destruction of other genres, including the edgy art film, the Western, the crime drama, the period piece, the grown up love story, or anything else with sadness or elegance at root instead of spectacle.

Not that things used to be better overall, but sci fi and fantasy was better when other genres were given equal [short] shrift. It was an alternative. Now it is the mainstream, and yet (Republican-like) keeps insisting it is an oppressed niche market. Someone needs to cleanse the halls of comic con with a hyperbole hose so we can start over.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:35 PM on September 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


My new method of finding new movies is to not bother going to the cinema other than as a social experience with other people (and even then, rarely), but to go through Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes end-of-year and greatest of all time lists. I'm willing to be behind the curve in order to watch better movies.

This is something that I suspect is anathema to most geeks - having an intense interest in something means that you want to know everything about a subject, preferably before everyone else. Hence the questions Bridges and Sheen were asked - it's all about acquiring knowledge rather than the experience of the movie.
posted by djgh at 2:38 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Funny enough, I was rewatching Watchmen yesterday and the more I see that flick the more I think it's a much, much better film than Dark Knight.

Not trying to seem pretentious or contrarian though it may certainly come across that way.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:43 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


'Movie nerds' are in danger of killing cinema about as much as fans of late-90s swing revival are in danger of killing Frank Sinatra.
posted by koeselitz at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


The first line in the article is this load of crap: Anyone who grew up prior to the 1990s may recall that it was once possible to see a new film without having already heard every zinger in the screenplay and every song on the soundtrack.

There is no requirement to knowing how it's going end or be. Hollywood has simply gotten a bit smarter in picking out books or comics that have a built in audience. I enjoyed Kick-Ass a lot, despite having never read the comic. It's not a zero sum game.
posted by nomadicink at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2010


I agree 100% with Senor Cardgage, although Heath Ledger did a fantastic job with his role in the Dark Knight.
posted by HuronBob at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2010


I'd actually argue that Kick Ass the movie is much, much better than the comic, and you're probably better off leaving it unread.
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


By the way, this isn't enough for a new post, but everybody should start getting really excited about Primer director/writer Shane Carruth's new movie A Topiary even though it's not even made yet and people are spoiling the shit of the plot all over the web.

Perhaps he is the stereotypical square-jawed insouciant hero that can save our world, in a world where the world is not our world.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:01 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm with HostBryan here. Movies that stayed true to the material are the ones that have succeeded best as works of fiction, to me, and it is the geeks who provide the pressure on studios to stay true to the material.

It is a shame that the types of movies being made nowadays have become so limited, but I don't think we can blame geeks for that. The producers and their perception of what audiences want is to blame.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:05 PM on September 5, 2010


OMG That's the best news I've heard in days. Thanks Potomac Avenue!
I was wondering if Carruth was ever going to get a chance at a wider canvas.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2010


Kick Ass the movie is much, much better than the comic

Yeah, if you want shiny-costumed superheroes.

The one area where I thought the movie worked best was in its explicit contrast of the three father-child pairs. Other than that, I thought most of the changes were polishing up what was meant to be a close examination of a turd. The reinvention of Kick Ass's girlfriend into a socially active little angel was the worst of them. Part of the point of the comic was that running around in a costume didn't solve any real-world problems, and the movie took the exact opposite tack.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:13 PM on September 5, 2010


Also I will thank any subsequent posters to not bring any of the A Topiary spoilers into this thread, thankyouverymuch.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:13 PM on September 5, 2010


What the author doesn't mention is that a lot of these geek-service movies don't do very well at the box office. Watchmen, Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim were disappointments to their studios. Watchmen did do pretty well but it wasn't the big blockbuster that they were expecting. Getting early geek buzz probably helps but it can't carry the boxoffice for a big movie, there just don't seem to be enough geeks.
posted by octothorpe at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2010


Meh.
posted by Elmore at 3:38 PM on September 5, 2010


If you look back at the body of work from the studios in the '80s, BOY is the comparison not favorable. Action movies have gotten bloated and dumb, and the CG effects look awful.

This is very true, and one of the saddest things about modern Hollywood. You don't have to compare movies to deathless classics of the medium to see how bad things have gotten.

Movies that stayed true to the material are the ones that have succeeded best as works of fiction, to me, and it is the geeks who provide the pressure on studios to stay true to the material.


I disagree with this. I remember the fan outrage when it was announced that Tom Bombadil was not going to be in the Lord of the Rings movies. Or when Spider-Man was given organic web shooters (neatly correcting a huge flaw in the origin of Spider-Man, namely: hey, poor kid, quit taking photos of yourself to make money and patent them webbies!).

One of the best adaptations in Hollywood history (IMO, obviously) is L.A. Confidential, which was ripped apart at the seams and recreated from scraps of the original story. Movies ain't comics and they ain't fiction and they have intrinsic differences in pacing and storytelling styles which allow different sorts of plots to work. And it's easy to blame studio meddling for the bad parts, but unless you were there you can't know who is to blame for what. There was intense studio meddling in the classic adaptation The Godfather, and thank goodness.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


The one area where I thought the movie worked best was in its explicit contrast of the three father-child pairs. Other than that, I thought most of the changes were polishing up what was meant to be a close examination of a turd. The reinvention of Kick Ass's girlfriend into a socially active little angel was the worst of them. Part of the point of the comic was that running around in a costume didn't solve any real-world problems, and the movie took the exact opposite tack.
The two most interesting changes made for the film were Big Daddy's underlying motivation for shaping his daughter into a wee sociopath, and Kick-Ass's girlfriend.

In the comic, Big Daddy is a schmuck who's crafted a fantasy world of Superheros and Villains; his wife left him, and his narrative morphs her absence into a story of evil gangsters taking out the woman he loved. His obsession with vengeance in the film is dark but ultimately legitimate, while in the comic it's another echo of the "escapism" theme.

In the comic, Kick-Ass's girlfriend isn't his girlfriend at all: when he tells her that he was pulling the "We're friends!" thing because he was too cowardly to ask her out, she's offended and bails on him. In the movie, she falls madly in love with him and can't stop screwing him.

The "running around in a costume doesn't solve anything" vibe isn't the only part they cut out: they adapted a downright brutal story of fanboy escapism into the very thing it shredded.
posted by verb at 3:51 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Two movies in the last three years have completely destroyed any sense I thought I had about how "Appealing To The Fans"™ works:

1. Scott Pilgrim, which was practically everything I wanted in a movie about a source material I equally loved, that had almost no flaws and I loved every minute of, and bombed miserably at the box office.

2. The Dark Knight, which every fanboy on the planet dribbles over and calls the greatest comic book movie ever and throws fits about how it (oh for fuck's sake, really?) wasn't nominated for Best Picture despite being a miserable disaster of nonsensical writing, completely illogical plot and inane dialogue.


I have no idea how much of the success of these movies is based on "staying true to the source." I think it's just whether or not it's an overall good movie. Watchmen would have been a lot better if fans talked about a whole mess of other gaping flaws in the film version instead of launching a pathetic, two-month whining campaign about how a mutant squid wasn't it it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:56 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Think about a movie version of Moby Dick where Ishmael rescues Ahab's beautiful daughter from the white whale and they sail off into the sunset together.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:03 PM on September 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


It seems like the main complaint was about spoilers. So just try to avoid them. Maybe don't go to comic-con?

I dunno, this doesn't really have much to do with 'geeks' or 'nerds' but more about the culture of doing lots of teasers and media for 'superfans'.

But its' not very hard to avoid all that. I mean, this article contained more spoilers for the new tron movie then I'd seen or heard prior.
posted by delmoi at 4:10 PM on September 5, 2010


Think about a movie version of Moby Dick where Ishmael rescues Ahab's beautiful daughter from the white whale and they sail off into the sunset together.

...and replace whales with Dragons.
posted by Tenuki at 4:12 PM on September 5, 2010


Think about a movie version of Moby Dick where Ishmael rescues Ahab's beautiful daughter from the white whale and they sail off into the sunset together.

This might be a very good movie. I don't know, but I know that it won't matter at all how close it adheres to the original book, or how much positive testing it gets from Melville fans who write Pierre slash. Movies are not books. A good movie may stay faithful to the original content, or it may not. cf recent threads about The Shining and Kubrick in general.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:28 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about movies that use cinematography to stick to the comic style like 300 or Sin City?
posted by Talez at 4:28 PM on September 5, 2010


"anything else with sadness or elegance at root instead of spectacle."

I wonder how much of this is because great movies one can watch at home on one's big-screen TV without other annoying movie-goers ... while movies WITH BIG EXPLOSIONS (or awesome special effects) really cry out to be watched on the big screen.

I know I only make it to the theater for big SF special effect movies -- Star Trek, LotR, Harry Potter ... Quiddich is just better on the big screen!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:38 PM on September 5, 2010


What about movies that use cinematography to stick to the comic style like 300 or Sin City?

The less said about those abominations, the better.
posted by Forktine at 4:50 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just saw Scott Pilgrim today. I liked it; it was okay despite the many places where Edgar Wright took important things and threw them away and made up other things to replace them, and despite the fact that nearly every last bit of character development was removed, and the way Ramona has essentially zero agency, and...

...anyway, the previews attached to Scott Pilgrim included the upcoming M Night Shyamalan movie (people actually groaned in unison when his name appeared) and some kind of alien invasion movie, but were mostly for godawful-looking by-the-numbers romantic comedies, all of which will probably a) be completely predictable and forgettable and b) smash Scott Pilgrim's box office numbers. So don't tell me the geeks own Hollywood; Hollywood is still controlled by the greatest anti-innovative and anti-creative force in the industry, the suits.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The less said about those abominations, the better.

I found 300 morally atrocious, but it is definitely one of the prettiest things I've ever seen.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:21 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I found it dull, the worst crime of all.
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on September 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Talez, 300 and Sin City look the way they do because the comic artist Frank Miller swore he would never allow movie adaptations of his work, and Robert Rodriguez pretty much invented the technique used to film them in large part to convince Miller to let him make them. In doing so they broke a whole bunch of conventional rules -- not least enough Rodriguez making Miller co-director of Sin City, which required Rodriguez himself to leave the Director's Guild for the project since union rules don't recognize such a relationship.

Some people think the movies are brilliant and others think they illustrate exactly why movies aren't comic books. But they did invent a whole new way of making movie imagery which really hasn't been exploited by anyone else.

Another movie which invented a whole new look and the technology to create it was Speed Racer, which may also have been a bit too captive to its source material.

Maybe one day we will see these techniques taken up for original projects that can be more otherwise movie-appropriate...
posted by localroger at 5:30 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Man... The Spirit.
posted by Artw at 5:36 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I found 300 hysterical!

I caught it partway through on cable - right about the time they start to fight the Persian hoards. I was sort of chuckling through the overacting and general silliness, but then I realized they were about to srsly throw down with the hoards. In their underwear and capes.

I have not served in the military, but I can't help thinking that underwear and a cape is not the ideal attire for battle. Maybe you want to toss on some cargo shorts over your underwear? You can stay cool but still have a place to keep stuff. Maybe your cape is going to get in the way of your fighting. I mean, sure it looks cool when you spin around or the wind catches it, but what about when the spear you're about to toss gets tangled in it or one of the Persians uses it to strangle you?
posted by jeoc at 5:37 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The real Spartans wore heavy armor that was part of their advantage on the field of battle. The movie Spartans wore capes and underwear to make it easier to jerk off to them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:48 PM on September 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


I can't believe that people are looking back with nostalgia on the movies of the Eighties; that was supposed to be the decade that Steven Spielberg almost singlehandedly ruined. But then I remember that, in the eighties, people used to characterize Seventies cinema as Saturday Night Fever, Jaws and Star Wars. Yes, the original Star Wars--or, as you like to call it, Episode IV--ruined serious cinema, ditto for the disco movie and the shark movie. You tried to talk Scorcese or Coppola back then, people either handwaved them away or mentioned the lesser movies from their catalogs like New York, New York or Coppola's S.E. Hinton movies.

Things are different now, of course, and even the blockbuster movies of that decade get their revisionist appreciations; Saturday Night Fever was the late movie critic (and colleague of Roger Ebert's) Gene Siskel's favorite movie of all time. And thus things like Rambo and Missing in Action, by being lumped in with the better movies of the Eighties, get compared favorably to today's action movies, which are supposed to be "bloated", whatever that means--too many explosions? Too much CGI? And what else--sequels have a fall-off in quality? Dumb comedies are popular--oh, hey, remember the Ernest comedies? Nothing new under the sun, kids, except that some superhero movies that aren't starring Christopher Reeve are being made that I can actually stand to go see.

Also, WRT what HostBryan said above, one other big difference is the "director's cut" edition of the movie, which allows directors to release alternate versions of the movie that might appeal to a different audience than the one that saw the theatrical version (with obvious exceptions, such as George Lucas' Star Wars revisions that, improvements in CGI aside, seem mostly to appeal only to himself).
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:57 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I am sick to death of nerd crap," Potomac Avenue typed on Metafilter.

Hee.

Color me surprised by the commenters saying the 80s were better. I was there. That's not how I remember it. I can't help wondering if you're not seeing them through nostalgia-colored filters.

It's been hard for me to deal with how critical of/impatient I am with movies at this age. I used to love movies and eat them up, but watching the same movies 20 years later, I know this was because I didn't see their giant, gaping, flaws at the time.
posted by emjaybee at 5:58 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That Patton Oswalt joke about "all the Tron fans who died" waiting for Tron: Legacy is remarkably less funny when one of them was your coworker, whose tools you're still using to get the movie made.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:58 PM on September 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Speed Racer was one of the most incredible looking films I think I've ever seen. And I've seen more movies than many of you, and am not a "geek."
posted by ghastlyfop at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like the Scott Pilgrim comic but didn't bother with the movie because I can't stand the blandness that is Michael Cera. This guy is the like the two Coreys mooshed together. Who the hell does he appeal to?

I just saw The American. It was an interesting failure but I'd watch it again before seeing anything that's so far in the top grossers of the year. I'm with some of the others above. Inception was boring. Dark Knight was boring. 300 was unbelievably boring. Iron Man 2 was boring. I couldn't even make it thru Watchmen. Kick Ass was amusing, though I hear there's a sequel coming.

There hasn't been a truly great American film since No Country for Old Men. Usually, I just rewatch that instead of going to the theatre to see these new flicks.

I expect good things from some of the films coming out at the tail of the year: Black Swan and The Social Network in particular.
posted by dobbs at 6:04 PM on September 5, 2010


I can't stand the blandness that is Michael Cera.

I think his charm lies in his appearance of barely restrained social panic. How many of us haven't felt that at some point?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:17 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think his charm lies in his appearance of barely restrained social panic. How many of us haven't felt that at some point?

His delivery of that one really unfortunate line about Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim sold me.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:20 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


What about movies that use cinematography to stick to the comic style like 300 or Sin City?

Visually stunning in many ways, but complete clunkers in others, particularly with the dialogue. 300 was more successful in my opinion because the director's adherence to the source material wasn't harmed by the source material being designed for comics. Miller's black and white artwork was great for the panels of a comic book, but as moving images? Doesn't work, it would have been better to keep things dark with shadows, saving the high contrast look for brief scenes. Otherwise it gets into sort of uncanny valley territory, where you have scene looking like you know it's physically impossible to do and you drawn out of the story.

All of that might have been ok if they had cleaned up Miller's dialogue so it sounded like something actual people would say.
posted by nomadicink at 6:48 PM on September 5, 2010


The movie Spartans wore capes and underwear to make it easier to jerk off to them.
This course of action never occurred to me.

I have a huge soft spot for Michael Cera due to his role in Arrested Development.

But I really shouldn't even be participating in this thread. The last two movies that I liked were The September Issue and The Dish. And one of those is almost 10 years old.
posted by jeoc at 6:49 PM on September 5, 2010


Speed Racer was one of the most incredible looking films I think I've ever seen.

I am so pissed that I let the critics dissuade me from seeing Speed Racer in the theatre. It was lots of fun -- silly in exactly the right ways -- and it looked fantastic. I spent the whole movie kicking myself for missing it on the big screen.
posted by straight at 7:36 PM on September 5, 2010


His delivery of that one really unfortunate line about Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim sold me.

Which line?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:37 PM on September 5, 2010


Melville fans who write Pierre slash

They wouldn't even notice a movie adaptation of Moby-Dick; I'm sure they're still busy with Pola X.
posted by kenko at 7:50 PM on September 5, 2010


Some might blame the modern trailer, a once-alluring art form now reduced to the cinematic equivalent of a Reader's Digest abridged classic, for spoiling the fun.

Bull: ever see the trailer for the 1978 movie The Deer Hunter? Go ahead. Watch it: it's a three minute summary of the movie from start to finish. Granted, it may have been that in 1978 they didn't know any better and that now in 2000-2010 they are spoiling films on purpose in order to attract fans, but still, this isn't a case where the "good old days" were better.
posted by deanc at 7:57 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I started reading this, got annoyed by the goofy blanket "better in the old days" generalizations, then clicked out of the article when they started complaining that people wanting early information ruins the movies.

To be clear, I don't know how to make Scott Pilgrim make money, but I'm pretty confident I know the reason it didn't: there are several hundred thousand VERY LOUD Scott Pilgrim fans on the internet (I'm one of them, at least for books 1-4). But you need to sell several million tickets to make a movie successful, and as a whole, the "mainstream" bread-n-butter family viewers aren't visiting message boards and responding to viral e-mail gags. It's like shooter games on the Wii: Many people want them, all those people buy 'em, but it's just not a big enough slice of an otherwise silent userbase for those games turn a profit.

I think I'm just tired of the "Geeks make noise and then don't show up" line. I saw the Snakes on a Plane movie due to word-of-mouth. Myself and 30 other people from an internet forum all met up and walked into a theater several days after it opened and had a blast. But that was 30 of us... once... In New York City. This is not a pattern that gets replicated in Ohio.

I saw Scott Pilgrim and loved it. All my internet-savvy friends saw Scott Pilgrim and loved it. However, nobody in my extended family or my circle of relations who's over the age of 30 or under the age of 15 saw it or had any reason to see it, and so I'm not shocked at all that it bombed. Sorry, fellow nerds! We are a powerful force for many, many things, but we can't drive mainstream-levels of success just yet. I say "yet" because I sincerely think we never, ever have: the Lord of the Rings were big action flicks, and I know it burns your ears, but plenty of non-geeks actually enjoyed them -- I heard teenage girls walking out of the theater saying "Oh man I hope the cute blond guy is in the next one."

THAT'S when you know your movie is raking in the cash.
posted by ®@ at 7:58 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Talez: “What about movies that use cinematography to stick to the comic style like 300... ?”

300 was already doomed. When your source material is shit, your movie's going to be shit. Oddly enough, Frank Miller didn't have that excuse when he wrote the comic. So in fact he's a lot more guilty for the idiotic 300 movie than anybody else; he's the only one responsible for taking a really fantastic book and turning it to trash.
posted by koeselitz at 8:08 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


300 was great, you Athenian pencil pusher.
posted by nomadicink at 8:57 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Color me surprised by the commenters saying the 80s were better. I was there. That's not how I remember it. I can't help wondering if you're not seeing them through nostalgia-colored filters.

The difference is that in the 1980s, studios were still willing to take a chance on a movie that was not a sequel, a for-all-the-family film, an Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow comedy, or a comic book adaptation. It wasn't quite the case that for every "Out of Africa" there was a "Down by Law" being made, but at least there will still "Down by Law"s being made and, more importantly, seen. There are a lot of good movies that get made that simply never find an audience, and it's not just because the studios aren't marketing them right. People have to want to see them. And even if you want to see them, you have to really want to put up with the miserable experience that is sitting in a movie theater these days.
posted by blucevalo at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2010


you Athenian pencil pusher.

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer's expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece—they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.
posted by kenko at 10:03 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


the miserable experience that is sitting in a movie theater these days.

I don't know about your theaters, but the ones I go to have better seating and better sound (sometimes the screens are a little pinched, but I sit up front so it's not a big deal) than the ones I went to when I was younger, and they aren't significantly more expensive, accounting for inflation. Of course, I time my movie-going strategically to catch the end of a run rather than the beginning, so I don't have to contend with huge idiot crowds talking on their cellphones or beating their toddlers to keep them quiet.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:09 PM on September 5, 2010


Kick-Ass would have been 10 times better if Kick-Ass had not been in it.
Michael Cera could not get me to go to even a second-run theater.
I am not a member of the target demographic.
posted by Ardiril at 10:31 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This might be a very good movie. I don't know, but I know that it won't matter at all how close it adheres to the original book, [...]

If it doesn't have the cassock I'm not watching it.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:50 PM on September 5, 2010


Pope Guilty: “The movie Spartans wore capes and underwear to make it easier to jerk off to them.”

jeoc: “This course of action never occurred to me.”

With due respect, I don't think you were part of the target audience for that sort of thing. I mean, it's not called heteroerotic imagery, is it?

Yeah, it occurred to me.
posted by koeselitz at 11:33 PM on September 5, 2010


> Think about a movie version of Moby Dick where Ishmael rescues Ahab's beautiful daughter from the white whale and they sail off into the sunset together.

I would prefer not to.
posted by chavenet at 12:01 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am so pissed that I let the critics dissuade me from seeing Speed Racer in the theatre. It was lots of fun -- silly in exactly the right ways -- and it looked fantastic. I spent the whole movie kicking myself for missing it on the big screen.

Speed Racer really is quite an entertaining two-and-maybe-a-half star popcorn action flick. I mean, you can't expect too much from it - but as unreal cartoon world movies go, it beats the everloving tar out of 300.
posted by furiousthought at 12:06 AM on September 6, 2010


I recently got a chance to read a stack of excellent comix from the 80's and 90's. That was great, but the letters in the back pages? At first I would read them in amazement, then I couldn't stop because I was hooked on the car crash aspect, then I had to skip over them because they were lowering my opinion of people.

The one thing that stuck was, how the fuck do the people who make comix deal with these people? The neediness, sense of entitlement, pettiness and anger at the silliest things was just out of control and I got a sense of people who make it extremely hard for artists to break the mold and be original.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 12:29 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, about fifteen of us dressed up in...well, essentially sheets....and went to the cinema for 300.

We felt completely badass as we congregated before setting off, slightly wary when walking through a town at night, and somewhat meek and sheepish buying tickets. Have you ever tried to stash a wallet in what is essentially a toga? No wonder trousers were invented.

We were however redeemed by the grins and general good-feeling in the cinema itself.
posted by djgh at 1:26 AM on September 6, 2010


the letters in the back pages

Remember, those letters were chosen by the editor...makes you wonder what he passed up, doesn't it?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:29 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"those letters were chosen by the editor..."

I can't shudder hard enough.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 2:47 AM on September 6, 2010


Slightly off topic, but if you want to go and see that great films are still being made, get along to your nearest film festival (there's always one). There you'll find a huge variety of entertaining and artistically diverse films, many of which will have had no prior publicity at all (so no need to fear spoilers), from all around the world.

And the awful truth is that this will be your only chance to catch many of them. Distributors are notoriously conservative, and these days they're worse than ever, so a lot of these films will never get sold and this could be your only chance to see them.

I can't tell you the number of really amazing films I've seen at festivals that then never got bought for my territory. Sure I've seen some clunkers along the way, but I've seen funny, sad, amazing and terrifying and all the time knowing that the really horrific news is that this film will probably screen three times then disappear.

So support film festivals!
posted by ciderwoman at 4:50 AM on September 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


You can't really compare two years like you just did. What Women Want and Cast Away, How the Grinch Stole Christmas came out in December of that year and Grinch in November.

I suppose the Grinch movie had a leg up, what with being released twice and all. Still, for your edification, here is the top ten year-to-date as of September 1, 2000:

1 Mission: Impossible II
2 Gladiator
2 The Perfect Storm
4 X-Men
5 Scary Movie
6 What Lies Beneath
7 Dinosaur
8 Erin Brockovich
9 The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
10 Big Momma's House

I'm still seeing one unabashed kids' movie there (Dinosaur) and a couple more sophomoric humour ones aimed at teenagers. That is almost the reverse of how the list looks today.

Let's go back another ten years, to September 1990:

1 Ghost
2 Pretty Woman
3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4 The Hunt for Red October
5 Total Recall
6 Die Hard 2: Die Harder
7 Dick Tracy
8 Back to the Future Part III
9 Presumed Innocent
10 Days of Thunder

Wow. Looks like one kiddie movie there, and a couple of broad-spectrum crowd-pleasers. I don't think there is any way to look at the trend and honestly not see a huge movement towards nine-year-olds being the target audience today.

I was a young adult in 1990 and in 2000, so I saw quite a few movies. Now that I am middle-aged, I scan the movie listings, shrug, and pull an HBO boxed set off the shelf.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:54 AM on September 6, 2010


It doesn't surprise me in the least that the gross earnings lists have skewed towards kids movies (especially those in 3D).

Extrapolating from my own behavior, as an adult with no kids I have almost no reason to see a grown-up film in the theater. It's better in every way to watch it at home in HD. The only exceptions I make are must-see theatrical "events" like Avatar or Inception.
posted by nev at 8:31 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently got a chance to read a stack of excellent comix from the 80's and 90's. That was great, but the letters in the back pages? At first I would read them in amazement, then I couldn't stop because I was hooked on the car crash aspect, then I had to skip over them because they were lowering my opinion of people.

Um, you should see modern day comics forums on the internet.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on September 6, 2010


As a child of the '80s, I too am somewhat taken aback by all the nostalgia for movies of that era, but it's more understandable when you consider that (usually) only a relative few of these films are being lionized. When people talk about the 50s or the 70s being golden ages for Hollywood it's partly because enough time has passed for the cream to have risen to the top and most of the terrible dreck to have been forgotten.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, also the "action" movie was born of the 80s, and hadn't been polished down into boringness. And though I love that stuff I can't quite help having a tiny bit of resentment towards it for displacing the thrillers of the 70s.
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a fair comparison, let's look at the most recent two complete years to see how things have changed.

2009:

1: Avatar
2: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
3: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
4: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
5: 2012
6: Up
7: Twilight: New Moon
8: Sherlock Holmes
9: Angels & Demons
10: The Hangover

2 kids films (Harry Potter and Ice Age - no, Pixar aren't just kids films), 1 teenage film (Twilight), and a broad spectrum of crowd pleasers.

2008:

1: The Dark Knight
2: Indiana Jones 4
3: Kung Fu Panda
4: Hancock
5: Mamma Mia!
6: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
7: Quantum of Solace
8: Iron Man
9: Wall-E
10: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Again hardly a list dominated by kids films (although there are kids films on the list).

So either the case is that 2010 is qualitiatively different from 2009 and 2008 and this change is sudden or the films in the last third of the year are important for the overall box office receipts. And that summer blockbusters are for people who don't want to go outside - it's the autumn, winter, and Christmas market tha matters. The kids get the summer while the adults are outside. The adults go in the winter when it's dark.
posted by Francis at 9:06 AM on September 6, 2010


Extrapolating from my own behavior, as an adult with no kids I have almost no reason to see a grown-up film in the theater. It's better in every way to watch it at home in HD.

This. Given a choice between HD at home (with snacks, and a pause button for bathroom breaks, and a really comfortable couch, and I control the volume), or paying a ton of money to go to the theater and deal with it being too loud (usually) or too quiet (less often, but even more aggravating), plus cellphones ringing, plus conversations, plus noisy kids, plus sticky floors, watching at home wins every time.

If I had a nearby option of one of those combined microbrewery/cinema places, where you can get a beer and a burger while watching your movie, I'd be there every week. But the family-oriented metroplex has exactly zero to offer me, and I'll be surprised if I go there even once this year.
posted by Forktine at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, you should see modern day comics forums on the internet.

No, you really shouldn't. 'cept for Warren Ellis's forums, they tend have a more adult brand of madness.
posted by nomadicink at 9:29 AM on September 6, 2010


Francis,

I have no idea where your figures come from -- I was pulling mine from boxofficemojo, looking at domestic results. What I see there and what you have posted above are remarkably at odds: Angels and Demons, which you cite at #9 for last year, is, I will grant, not a kiddie movie: it is a movie made for very very stupid adults. The actual results for domestic box office have it at #22, with the #9 slot being occupied by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

However, if you honestly think that Up and Kung Fu Panda (or for that matter Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel) are not movies made primarily for children, I think you live in a different world from the one I do.

I think Pixar is great and while Toy Story 3 is the only genuinely satisying Hollywood movie I have seen this year, I don't delude myself into thinking that the presence of dozen or so jokes and references that will go over the heads of the eight-year-olds make it a movie aimed at adults.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:38 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jimmy Havok: Of course, I time my movie-going strategically to catch the end of a run rather than the beginning, so I don't have to contend with huge idiot crowds talking on their cellphones or beating their toddlers to keep them quiet.

That's an excellent strategy.

Francis: a broad spectrum of crowd pleasers

What crowd are they pleasing? That is, what is the target demographic? As with most non-rom-com movies these days, it's either families with kids or it's 18-24 year-old males.
posted by blucevalo at 11:49 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Anyone who grew up prior to the 1990s may recall that it was once possible to see a new film without having already heard every zinger in the screenplay and every song on the soundtrack."

I watch cinema ads for a living. I have seen, possibly, 50 different iterations of the trailers for The A-Team, It's Complicated and Kick Ass, to name but three. I went to see the latter at the cinema and it turned out to not be exactly like the trailers. It was more fun, and more touching, than I expected.

Having said that, I watched Clerks for the first time in 2000 and I really did feel like I'd heard all the good lines before - in fact my ex took one of the scenes in the film and described it as though it had happened to him. I've also never seen Star Wars for the same reason - what could I really get out of it now, now that I missed it being a little space western and has now become such a cultural juggernaut that a person who's never seen it can watch the Family Guy episode based on it and know exactly what's been spoofed there?
posted by mippy at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I still want them to do adaptations of Naughty Bits, The Bradleys and Blue Monday, thoughbut.)
posted by mippy at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2010


Up is not a children's movie. I mean, come on, there are 'adult themes' in the opening montage that had grown-ups blubbing around the world. There's a strong current of missed chances and missed opportunites and roads not taken in that film which don't normally find themselves in kiddie films.

I'd also take issue with Alice in Wonderland being aimed at kids. The novel is a children's book in the same way The Simpsons is a children's programme.
posted by mippy at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe geeks did contribute to some of the shit that got the greenlight over the past few years, but I'd personally rather pen the blame on the studios who cannot believe that an audience exists for any film outside of the Tranformers/Sex In The City vortex of suck.
posted by thivaia at 2:17 PM on September 6, 2010


I'm sure Sex And The City was a great film if you like Sex And The City. Just as Twilight is great if you love the books, or Spider-Man was great if you like comic books and disagreeing with directors.
posted by mippy at 2:23 PM on September 6, 2010


Man. I went and downloaded Kick Ass just so I could read this thread without having it spoiled. Entertaining movie.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on September 6, 2010


Up is not a children's movie.

Up was great because it had something for everyone. It really did touch all the bases. Pixar seems to have a talent for that.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:10 PM on September 6, 2010


Let's go back another ten years, to September 1990:

3 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
7 Dick Tracy
8 Back to the Future Part III

Wow. Looks like one kiddie movie there
TMNT, Dick Tracy, and BTTFIII were all kids movies. I know since I was ten, and actually thought Dick Tracy was way to silly even then (well I saw it on VHS a little later)
posted by delmoi at 3:46 PM on September 6, 2010


Up may have something for everyone but people who don't have either kids or a technical interest in animation aren't ever going to see it.
posted by localroger at 4:10 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dick Tracy is silly to children. To adults, it's camp. Al Pacino has never been louder.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:20 PM on September 6, 2010


"Dick Tracy" did gross $163 million worldwide, and probably allowed Beatty to buy a few more Maseratis, but it had to have been silly both to adults and children the day it was released. I mean, Madonna as a femme fatale? God help us.
posted by blucevalo at 4:36 PM on September 6, 2010


people who don't have either kids or a technical interest in animation aren't ever going to see it.

Seems like a lot of people did see it, based on it's box office. The excellent reviews it got, mentioning that "something for everyone" aspect, were why I went, and I was quite satisfied.

It may be that it didn't catch the 16-24 demographic, so not really "something for everyone."
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:43 PM on September 6, 2010


Up is not a children's movie.

Up is a children's movie that appeals to a broader audience. I watch children's movies every single day (Up being one of the films in heavy rotation) and Up is just as much a children's movie as Horton Hears a Who and Monsters vs. Aliens. Kids don't get the adult themes you're referring to and the scariest thing about Up isn't that Ellie dies, it's that there are ANGRY DOGS! ZOMG! SCARY DOGS!
posted by sonika at 5:13 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Up may have something for everyone but people who don't have either kids or a technical interest in animation aren't ever going to see it.

Say whut
posted by Bookhouse at 5:42 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Back to the Future films (one of the few trilogies to maintain a pretty high level of quality throughout) are not kids films -- they are teenage/young adult/family films.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:21 PM on September 6, 2010


Dick Tracy was a thoroughly awful movie, and one of the most awful things about it was the way that it pushed the idea that unattractive == evil. Most movies use that device a bit but are smart enough to at least throw a fig leaf over it; Dick Tracy thoroughly bought the idea, and the result was insufferable.

I haven't seen Up because it's not the kind of thing a person like me would ever see. I recently had occasion to see the original Disney Alice in Wonderland, because I rented it by mistake. I watched it, since I paid for it. It was enchanting and I was enthralled by the old-school animation. But I wouldn't rent it again or any similar movie deliberately. It impressed me, but because it was scaled to what a child could handle it didn't move me. And while I will take a chance on new tech like Miller or the W bros once I've seen what the tech can do, I want more than eye candy to bring me back for the next round.
posted by localroger at 6:30 PM on September 6, 2010


Up may have something for everyone but people who don't have either kids or a technical interest in animation aren't ever going to see it.

Is that a joke? I know tons of adults who see Pixar movies without kids in tow, because they are so much more entertaining than most movies of any kind.

I haven't seen Up because it's not the kind of thing a person like me would ever see.

That sentence makes no sense to me unless the phrase "person like me" means "person who hates animated movies."
posted by straight at 7:05 PM on September 6, 2010


I recently had occasion to see the original Disney Alice in Wonderland, because I rented it by mistake.

Close one. You might have accidentally gotten the Burton movie.

For kids.
posted by Artw at 7:09 PM on September 6, 2010


I know tons of adults who see Pixar movies without kids in tow, because they are so much more entertaining than most movies of any kind.

It doesn't mean they aren't kids movies. Things for kids can be really smart and nuanced (eg Pixar movies, Roald Dahl illustrated books) or they can be shallow and unremittingly awful (eg crappy cartoons). The good stuff will appeal to a wider audience, and will (hopefully) retain its appeal for years, maybe generations.

But just because something is good, and maybe has some scary or sad parts, doesn't make it not a kids movie/book/etc.
posted by Forktine at 7:29 PM on September 6, 2010


Slightly off topic, but if you want to go and see that great films are still being made, get along to your nearest film festival (there's always one). There you'll find a huge variety of entertaining and artistically diverse films, many of which will have had no prior publicity at all (so no need to fear spoilers), from all around the world.


Enthusiastically seconded. I'd rather gorge myself on as many films as I can watch during the festival, even though some of them will be clunkers. And if you don't have a film festival near you, look up the programs of the festivals in a dozen major cities and start checking Netflix. (I've been pleasantly surprised.)

I don't really understand why anyone is surprised that mass-marketed movies are beholden to a lower common denominator. I expect the major studios to put in as little time impressing me with thoughtful complexity as I expect McDonald's to surprise me with culinary innovation.
posted by desuetude at 7:52 PM on September 6, 2010


I concur that Pixar films are children's movies.

I also would like to throw out that ever since Monsters INC, my friends and I make a point of getting together and seeing a Pixar movie in the theatre on opening weekend. This started with my college friends and continues on. We're in our 20s and 30s and do not have children. None of us have a technical interest in animation; just a love of quality storytelling.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:16 PM on September 6, 2010


and the scariest thing about Up isn't that Ellie dies, it's that there are ANGRY DOGS! ZOMG! SCARY DOGS!

The scary thing wasn't the death, it was the SPOILER miscarriage./SPOILER

There are few children's films (unless things have really changed in the past fifteen years) that feature death so heavily. I don't think animation automatically equals kiddie fare - some believe The Simpsons to be a children's programme, which I'm sure many would disagree with despite the wealth of Bart merchandise in kid sizes.

I went to see it through work, when my office of adults - none with kids - went to a screening.

If you don't like mainstream films, my advice would be not to watch them. I don't like most chart music, so I listen to other things and don't kvetch about it. And in the days of Lovefilm, even if you live in the middle of nowhere you can see whatever films you deem to be great. (Oh, how I wish that had existed when I was growing up.)
posted by mippy at 5:39 AM on September 7, 2010


Ugh, I don't know. I've been catching up on some year-old Dr. Who material and the series is arguably at its worst the more it tries to pander to the fandom.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:32 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no idea where your figures come from

Wikipedia. 2008, 2009. Using the worldwide gross figures.

And I will grant that there's no Erin Brokovitch or Pretty Woman on either of those lists. But those 2000 and 1990 lists look pretty kid-and-18-24 friendly to me.
posted by Francis at 7:34 AM on September 7, 2010


I am really perplexed by all this "I'm too old for this movie," "I'm no target demographic," "All these geeky movies suck," and so for and so forth. Why are the movie goers taking seeing a movie so personally? Seriously, when I look at these little lists people are dispersing out in this thread I've seen the majority of them and enjoyed them. And I'm a mid 20s African-American male so you know the movies that are suppose to hit my target demographic is small. U.S. movie culture goes through trends and the fanboy trend is it right now. Even though these movies are not doing great at the box office (which as become the equivalent of betting on a horse race), they do a good job in the DVD buying/rental market which has become increasingly important for movie studios.

Movies should be about enjoying the story and escapism if the genre calls for it. That's all. It doesn't need to be catering to my personal experience, or fanboy tendencies, or any other lazy excuse people complain about movies nowadays. It doesn't matter if it is a super hero movie, Pretty Woman, Schinder's List, Malcolm X, etc. An enjoyable movie is an enjoyable movie.

If you do not like what is in your multiplex, Netflix, the Internet, and other resources are at your disposal. I feel like people who complain are too lazy to find their own entertainment and expect it to be handed to them catered to their personal taste with no flaws.
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It doesn't mean they aren't kids movies.

I wasn't denying that. I was just astounded at logalroger's claim that adults would never see a Pixar movie unless they were accompanying their kids. That's so obviously false I don't understand how he got that idea.

However your insistence that something is or isn't "a kids movie" makes me wonder what exactly you mean by that. Are you just saying that Up is appropriate for kids? Are you saying that it was marketed primarily to kids? Are you claiming the writers and directors conceived of Up as a movie intended primarily to entertain kids (with maybe a few extra ideas or lines for adults added on)?

If you mean something like that last sentence, I think you're wrong. Think of the famous story about the video of the young woman crying in response to Wall-E. The Pixar studio was utterly energized by this response from an adult to the movie they were working on. That would not have happened if they saw themselves as primarily making movies for kids.
posted by straight at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2010


straight: I think Pixar is probably working within the formula of "kids' movies" and trying to expand the genre to touch adults as well. Kids' movies as a genre tend to be formulaic, and while they push the envelope, Pixar movies fit the bill (hero figure, overcoming an obstacle, morally unambiguous). In addition, you can't deny that Pixar movies are marketed to kids with all of the Happy Meal toy tie-ins and coloring books and other such merch that is pretty exclusive to the "kid movie" phenomenon.

Pixar movies are awesome, but to try and pretend that they're for adults rather than being kids' movies that appeal to a broader audience is misguided.

(Unless you can show me another adult movie that gets its own coloring books - marketed for ages 5+, in which case, I will conceed the point.)
posted by sonika at 11:06 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't say adults would never see a Pixar movie unless towed to one by a kid; I said I would never see one, and while I don't represent all adults I think there are a lot like me.

I did see Wall-E because so many people recommended it and I thought it was awful. It was trying too hard to be cute and funny to do the whole end of the world death vibe justice. The foreground cute stuff was poisoned by the seriousness of the background, which was really horrifically awful if you thought about it too hard, and the background was trivialized and rendered unbelievable and irrelevant by the cute foreground stuff.

But that's exactly what happens when you make a kids' movie. You can't show the mess, everything is sterilized and desexualized and presented more like a sodoku puzzle than an existential threat which is neatly solved and wrapped up in 2 hours without any of the good guys having to do anything messy in the process. Because if you violate any of those rules you lose your G rating and a thousand parents' associations rise up to condemn you.

And if you aren't making a kids' movie, you probably aren't worried about those things and it will show. And it's not about cartoons either; Titan A.E. avoided this trap even though it was mediocre in unrelated ways.
posted by localroger at 11:51 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is what I was reacting to, localrodger:
Up may have something for everyone but people who don't have either kids or a technical interest in animation aren't ever going to see it.

Again, I think that's false. And I think most of the things you didn't like about Wall-E are hardly restricted to kids movies.

localroger wrote: the background was trivialized and rendered unbelievable and irrelevant by the cute foreground stuff...You can't show the mess, everything is sterilized and desexualized and presented more like a sodoku puzzle than an existential threat which is neatly solved and wrapped up in 2 hours without any of the good guys having to do anything messy in the process. and

sonika wrote: I think Pixar is probably working within the formula of "kids' movies"...(hero figure, overcoming an obstacle, morally unambiguous).

Except maybe for the word desexualized, there are plenty of adult movies that fit those descriptions -- formulaic, morally unambiguous, trivializing serious suffering for the sake of getting on with the action. Up has a surprisingly mature treatment of what in most adult movies would be a moment of wacky slapstick violence.

sonika: (Unless you can show me another adult movie that gets its own coloring books - marketed for ages 5+, in which case, I will conceed the point.)

Not a very good metric, I've seen little-kid coloring books for PG-13 movies like Spider-Man 3 and Dark Knight.

I don't deny that Pixar movies are marketed to kids, but it seems to me that Pixar is trying to make movies for that are appropriate for kids (although Up and Incredibles are rated PG) but intended equally for adults and children. Again, I think their reaction to the crying Wall-E woman is pretty clear evidence of that.
posted by straight at 1:16 PM on September 7, 2010


Up is just as much a children's movie as Horton Hears a Who and Monsters vs. Aliens.

Hold on now, Monsters vs. Aliens is a kids movie? Because I've been offering up some pretty gruesome blood sacrifices before the alter of Insectosaurus since that movie came out in the hopes of attracting him to smite, sneeze on some troublesome neighbors.

I really took it more as a docudrama kind of thing.
posted by quin at 1:36 PM on September 7, 2010


I think the shibboleth for the divide is not so much "is it animated?" or "did the marketing people commission colouring books?" equalling kids' movie but "will kids understand this?" If the answer is no, what you have here is a movie for grown-ups. Curiously, Salon has a piece on this vanishing breed today.

I have no trouble with a lot of pop culture being accessible to audiences young and old: that is what makes it pop culture. I am saddened that essentially all of it has to be aimed at dull third-graders.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:07 PM on September 7, 2010


If the question is "is it smart or dumb as a sack of rocks?" then Pixars stuff is head and shoulders above almost anything we've discussed here aimed at teens or adults.
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2010


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