Could 2016 be the start of the end for Hollywood’s cinema days?

Hollywood Sign in disrepair, circa 1978 by Bob Beecher

Right now Star Wars: The Force Awakens is busy making box office history.

In only its third week of theatrical release the film is set to overtake the all-time US box office record of $760m set by Avatar over 34 weeks, and after its release in China the sci-fi epic may well be capable of beating the record for the world’s largest grossing film in the history of the box office – also set by Avatar at $2.8bn.

But this is an odd story for the cinema industry, which many artists predicted was on its way out due to the effect streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have had on the way we consume movies.

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The Golden Globes: Who will win vs. who deserves to

Golden Globes 2016 via NBC

Earlier this week the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their nominations for 2016’s Golden Globe Awards.

Sadly, as any commentator worth their salts will attest, both the nominations and eventual winners fall prey to dubious Hollywood politics. Genre films, independent gems and even depressing age statistics can lead to outrageous but all too predictable snubs.

With this in mind, the Right Dishonourable will attempt to answer the questions we all love to speculate on during awards season: who will win and who deserves to win?

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No need to reboot: Spectre and the genius of the Bond franchise

Daniel Craig in Spectre, October 2015 by TM Danjaq and MGM

Box office figures for the new James Bond film show that the longest-running franchise in cinematic history is in excellent health.

The 24th film in the series, Spectre, broke records in its opening week, racking up ticket sales of £52m ($80.4m) in its first six territories.

And whether you love, hate, or don’t care about 007, the 24 movies are a film phenomenon. Decades before Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars saga, James Bond pioneered something coveted by today’s film studio execs – a “shared universe”.

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Matt Damon isn’t allowed an opinion on diversity because he’s a white man

Matt Damon in Berlin, February 2007 by Thore Siebrands

The term “mansplaining” is among the latest and most innovative tools in the feminist handbag to stifle debate and shut down those that disagree with them.

In the heads of social justice warriors it is a way of discrediting an opponent on the basis of their maleness, with the perpetrator believing – to quote Urban Dictionary – “that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.”

In more logically-oriented circles this is known as ad hominem, a fallacy in which you attempt to discredit a piece of reasoning by addressing your attacks “to the man”. As another Urban Dictionary entry has it, “mansplaining” can therefore be defined as “telling a woman that she’s wrong, even when she actually is.”

It’s with that in mind we turn to Jezebel, a feminist blog which published a piece on Tuesday titled “Matt Damon Interrupts Successful Black Woman Filmmaker to Explain Diversity to Her”.

To set the scene, white man and occasional actor and filmmaker Damon was starring in Project Greenlight, an HBO series which offers first-time filmmakers a start in the movie industry. During a discussion with Effie Brown, a black female producer of Dear White People among other things, Damon disagreed with an opinion of hers:

Those who want further context can see an extended clip here. But to quote Jezebel’s summary of the situation:

“During a discussion about one of the films, Brown helpfully points out that she’s worried that the only black person in the entire movie is a prostitute who is slapped by her white pimp. All she’s saying is that perhaps this roomful of white people should be cognizant of who they hire to direct a character like that – AKA hire some people of color so they can treat the role with some dignity and prevent it from descending into a racist trope.”

The racist implication that a white person could not direct a black character “with some dignity” is one of the problems with the Brown’s statement. But far more ugly is the vitriol directed at Damon for even having an opinion on this matter whilst being a white man:

“Luckily, Matt Damon is there to swoop in with this Smart White Man cape and interrupts Brown in order to explain diversity to her and this room full of white people. He argues that actually, the less diverse directing teams brought up the same issue about the prostitute character that Effie is raising.”

The fact that Damon did worry about the character devolving into a racist trope, which social implications aside should be considered as a matter of good character development, is not enough for the feminazis, who these days are happy to slur the “pale, stale male” in terms that could get you arrested if directed at another demographic.

And such bigotry is not even confined to the feminist fringes these days. Libby Hill, a TV reporter for the LA Times, claimed that Damon was trying to “silence” Brown, as if dissenting from somebody’s viewpoint was the same as stopping them speaking.

Indeed the only people trying to silence anyone in this debate are social justice wankers trying to suppress every view they don’t like, branding the airing of such opinions “problematic” and liable to make people think other than the guardians of public morality would like.

Moreover the only people trying to discriminate on the basis of sex or race are social justice wankers, who want to block whites or men from certain positions solely on the basis of their race or sex. From geek girl blog the Mary Sue:

“Since every season of the show has had a different focus, I vote that Project Greenlight 5 be open exclusively to women and people of color. Because Project Greenlight is about access, and it’s about time that it puts its money where its mouth is and stops giving access to the same [white privileged male] people over and over.”

Image Credit – Matt Damon in Berlin, February 2007 by Thore Siebrands

With $1bn in ticket sales, Jurassic World is further proof that franchises are predators

Sketch of deinonychus, Tim Bekaert, 1996 edit

With reports in that Jurassic World has just become the fastest film in history to gross $1bn worldwide, should we celebrate or cry?

The answer is neither. Instead, you should be afraid. Very afraid.

Movie franchises are not a new thing, and neither is the fact that mediocre and bad movies can dominate box offices. After all, Transformers: Age of Extinction was the biggest film of 2014 despite approval ratings of only 18 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Granted, the Jurassic Park series is nothing like the Transformers movies. The former sprung from a thought-provoking novel where the latter was made, quite literally, to sell more Transformers toys.

But the problem nearly all franchises share is a studio-led design to produce quantity over quality, mindlessness over intellect. In short, franchises are purposefully made to be simple, popcorn entertainment.

Imagine you’re on the board of a film studio choosing which film to fund. One has no artistic integrity, but is part of a franchise and could make you a lot of money. The other is a smaller movie that won’t do as well, but might one day be a classic. Who’s your daddy?

Anytime a prequel, sequel or inbetweenquel makes a lot of money, an original film dies. Instead of hiring writers and directors to produce original ideas, Disney are producing live action remakes of The Jungle BookBeauty and the BeastMulanWinnie the Pooh and Pinocchio. 

Many would no doubt argue: “It’s only movies, who cares?” The problem is that billions of dollars are spent on productions every year in Hollywood, with many more billions of dollars made in ticket sales. And unoriginal content should enrage us as consumers, if nothing else. After all, would we really accept Coke 2 or a new not-as-good-as-the-original Mars bar?

In the first Jurassic Park film, Jeff Goldblum’s character (Ian Malcolm) gives a warning to the owners of the park that I wish an executive at Universal had been reminded of:

I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: It didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it – you wanna sell it!

Colin Trevorrow himself, who directed Jurassic World, has indicated that he wasn’t happy with Universal execs. In an interview with Italy’s Bad Taste, Trevorrow revealed that he disagreed with Universal over footage they had used to market the film. He also ruled himself out of directing the sequel – a pretty clear indication that he was unhappy with the franchising of a film he was passionate about.

In and of itself, Jurassic World is not a bad thing. But it is a bad omen, a symptom of many, many more years of remakes and reboots and unoriginal films to come. What can you do? Know your consumer rights: Reject sub-standard products.