"It’s Just A Movie…Right?"
“It’s Just A Movie…Right?”
It’s just a movie right? If only it were that easy. The reason
something is taken to heart is because it has an intrinsic value to us,
whether it be favourite movies, TV shows, the actor or singer him
or herself, sports/sports hero, or easy chair, etc. So, to a realistic
We humans have need of entertainment. It’s in our genetic
makeup. Consider one of the definitions of the word entertain: To
amuse; divert. In the purest sense of the word, it is something that
refreshes, reinvigorates. It could easily be a picnic, a trip to the
Bahamas, or as is usual, a trip to the local cinema.
When it comes to pop culture, or popular culture, it is more than
just a refreshing of the soul, but a part of us. Should it be?
Probably not, but in reality these things usually are. Let’s face it
mankind for whatever reason will give deference to the creation, as
opposed to the creator. We have for millennia made our deities out
of gold, stone, wood and even dung, at which point we bowed down
to them. And when we tire of them, we destroy them (at least one of
them makes a great fertilizer) and then we make new ones, or adopt
someone else’s. And yes, there is a psychological component to this
Consider that I was personally looking forward to seeing the new
Superman Returns movie. As it turned out, it was a good movie, but
not great. It should have been nothing less than stellar! After 19
years since the last Superman feature film, this movie should have
been letter perfect. The reason it wasn’t super is that it lacked
originality, it had too many undeveloped scenes, or they were
convoluted, and it did many of the classic no-nos in screenplay
writing. In essence: a bad script, written by two kids that
apparently don’t understand screenplay structure. And it showed,
as it will show each and every time.
One of the first rules it broke, and right out of the gate is simply:
Case in point, I didn’t want to be told (tell) about what was left of
Krypton, but more importantly, I wanted to see (show) Kal-El step
foot on what was left of his home planet. In fact, all Superman fans
did. Structurally speaking, we needed to see this, so it would make
his return more poignant. We call it structure in screenwriting.
When you can’t get into a movie, and your mind starts to
wander…it’s structure, or the lack of it. There is a solid art and
science in screenwriting that cannot be ignored. It’s that simple.
In regard to Superman Returns, let me say this here and now:
Brandon Routh is my Superman!
Now, continuing, another simple, but true rule of thumb in
screenwriting is that: You are entitled to one great lie. Everything
else must be logical. Remember that one also friends.
If rules are meant to be broken, it isn’t so with screenwriting, and
the box office is reflecting what I am saying. Superman Returns is
making money, yes, but not near to the level they had hoped for.
Plus, it helps to know the rules before you think you can bend them.
The only reason you are seeing high figures in box office receipts
for any movie these days is that the price of a movie ticket is so
blasted high. The latest Pirates movie is an unusual exception, and
it paled in comparison to the original, for the original was just that,
original. One of the main problems with it is the same thing that is
going to do harm to the new Bond movie (beside many other
Notice: There is this trend for darkness, for dark and gritty
characters, dark sets, dark this, or dark that, etc. Filmmakers think
this will give some validity, realism, or added dimension and
acceptance to their story, character and the movie as a whole. It is
really a great way to bog a film down, and I for one don’t want to
exit the movie theatre and feel like I need Prozac! I want to be
enthralled, entertained, refreshed and have a diversion to my
normal reality, not be reminded of it.
Question: Hollywood, is that so hard to fathom, that we want fun to
go with our popcorn?
Think of the final Star Wars movie. It was so dark that the entire
audience only laughed when Yoda entered the office of the bad guy
(well one of them) and glared at the two guards, at which he waved
his arms and they mysteriously flew against and slammed into the
wall, knocking them out. It was great! It was funny! And it was
fun! We needed more of it! Watch the first Star Wars, and you will
find dark, but also much humor and light. A balance. And fun.
Stars Wars should always be fun.
This trend to make everything and everyone DARK IS killing
much of the fun and killing film. When I was in my screenwriting
classes, we would always watch a film or two during the semester
and break it down. My instructor (who was educated at UCLA film
school, with more on that later) one time showed Schindler’s List.
Now, I could not watch it in the cinema, nor the two times it was on
TV, for said reason of its subject matter. It was too painful to see,
and I had been to the Dachcau concentration camp in German, just
outside of Munich. I did try to watch it on TV to be honest, but
when it came to that little girl in the red coat, it tore me up too
much to watch it. Yet, I did watch it in class. I guess that was the
right objectively minded environment to view it.
Well, I, with great shame laughed on and off for the first 45
minutes. There was genuine humor, and at times it was down right
funny and charming! What a shock! I had expected it to be so dark
and gloomy with regard to how bad we humans can treat ourselves
that I could never watch it on my own power. Yet, there was light,
instead of darkness, humour instead of gloom interwoven in the
beginning, as it focused mostly on Schindler himself. Once Amon
Goeth showed up, the laughter stopped. And it was the dark movie
I had dread in watching, but it did turn out to be a fabulous movie,
just hard to watch. But, the point is that in spite of its subject
matter, we did have fun, it was restless and uneasy, but the giggles
were genuine. When horror hit, we saw our main character change
and grow with the situation, making him and the story, very
compelling. Hence, in spite of all of the negatives it was an uplifting
Negative is all around us. What makes a story great is the strength
of the positives that claw their way out of the negatives, whether
they shine brightly or not, as long as they emerge.
The point: don’t make your movie/story so dark—dark—dark and
more dark. Let there be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Somewhere. You must have balance, emotional highs and lows. You
have to have fun in film, no matter what the subject matter. Who
wants to sit for two hours and get depressed (I refer to the
definition of the word entertain, once again, and to the need for
Ironically, as I start this article it is the 25th anniversary of MTV,
which has done much harm in the making of movies. How many
times have you said, I want to go see a good, exciting movie, and
you feel it was more of an expensive music type video or a video
game, with quick cuts, flashy filming, but no story, with nothing to
soak into your soul and take home?
I own both Jason Bourne movies on DVD, but I felt like I should
have been on crack to watch the second one especially, as it was cut
too flashy and quick in its action sequences to let the full expression
of the scene come through. I “don’t want my MTV” in my movies. I
have enjoyed some music videos on MTV and on VH-1 in the past.
Just keep it out of my movies! Thank you very much!!!
Let me throw this in here as well. The “suits” (Hollywood
hierarchy, the money people, producers, high ranking directors, etc)
are like politicians. They don’t get it. They are too out of touch with
what people really want. Like politicians they give you what they
think you want, and act with indifference to what you keep telling
them you want. You are the consumer, the client if you will.
Touching on psychology again, power and wealth can and does
corrupt the person. A studio head (just like an actor, director,
producer) can start to believe their press. This leads to over
confidence that they own you, the movie going public, especially
you young men in the demographic audience target group of ages:
16-24, or thereabouts.
Along with this trend, if you are smart enough, you have noticed
that movies tend to dumb you down, instead of raise you up, and
enlightening you. Oh, I wish this would stop, but then the suits look
at the 16-24 male demographic target audience group (remember
who you guys are) and aim for them, mostly, with mindless T & A,
explosions, as they figure if they aren’t smart enough to pull their
sagging trousers up, then they can sling anything at them and they
will bite. You 16 to 24-demo target audience groups should in case
you aren’t getting this, should be insulted.
Will this ever change?
Here’s the problem. The suits are corporate people. Corporate
people tend to view themselves from the highest to the lowest as
above the rest, hence why they can be so tyrannical in nature. I
believe the adjective most often used to describe them is
Now, if you marry that egocentric mentality with the entertainment
industry that’s in the business of making little demigods, which the
public feeds fanatically upon, then this little pagan god machine
will continue as is. No other industry could consistently produce
such poor product and stay in business.
Could the entertainment industry collapse? You wouldn’t think so,
but it’s possible. Other mighty entities have. You drag out the slop
in anything long enough and it will, but it will finally collapse when
human society does. Remember the “our need for entertainment”
The French have a saying: Noblesse Obilge. “The Obligation of
Failure to heed this by the rich and powerful has led to many
revolts and full-scale revolutions throughout the ages. The box
office revolt of lower movie attendance is just such a reality, which
can only be compensated by higher ticket prices for only so long.
And finally, you can’t do a book, or a comic as a movie in his
original form. Again, there is structure to a screenplay, and you
must follow these rules to have a well-crafted story. You only have
two hours or so, or less as is often the case these days to tell (show)
a story. In other words, you can’t cram all of the elements in a
novel or comic book into a movie. It just won’t work. I know. I
have put over 42,000 words into my novel that is based on an
existing screenplay of mine. With the novel I can expand and add
great detail. I don’t have this luxury with the screenplay version.
They are two different animals.
Now, to the area of most interest on this website.
When Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman first sought
to bring the James Bond novels to life, they were blessed with great
talent in which to do so. Cubby was an agent before hand, and was
even the first agent to actor Robert Wagner (I know because R.J.
as he is known, told me) but saw a value in the Bond novels. The
Bond movies were an original!
In the novels, Bond is described as six foot tall, 187 lbs., with a
brawny build. He had black hair, with blue-grey eyes, and a thin
scar down his right cheek. Apart from the blue-grey eyes, Sean
Connery fit the bill perfectly, though a bit taller than the fictional
character of the novel. Connery also brought fun to the role, which
didn’t really exist in the novel James Bond. Read the novels and
you will see what I mean. The novel Bond won’t work for film.
Timothy Dalton tried to make his Bond like the novel version, and
though well played by him, it felt if he cracked a smile, he’d crap
his pants. Bond has a stoic nature, but he enjoys life and likes to
have fun. There is a time to be serious, dark, but also more evenly
leveled out, which Sean did so beautifully.
A friend had said that, and yes I will print it here, that as long as
Broccoli’s idiot children are in charge of EON Productions, the film
series will continue to be ruined.
I some time ago, went in search of what was making the movies so
bad, and started with the first really bad Bond…For Your Eyes
Only. This movie brought back Blofeld in the pre-title sequence and
then…nothing. Why? Bond’s car explodes, when a bad guy sets of
the auto alarm. How stupid? Why, again? I have asked myself.
Then I locked in on one name that has stuck out ever since.
Michael G. Wilson. He is the stepson of Cubby. His father, actor
Lewis Wilson played Batman in the 1940’s. Wilson is the current
executive producer of the series, along with his half-sister, Barbara.
Some might say: Dumb and Dumber. Sorry to say.
Sadly, I have to say I have never come across someone so out of
touch with something they would never have had the imagination to
ever create on their own. It is like Pan Am. Once the world leader
in aviation that went more places than many airlines combined, and
led the way in innovation. The flight you take for granted today,
was paved with the ingenuity of Juan Trippe, who founded Pan
American World Airways. We have relatively cheap air travel and
scientific breakthroughs due to him. But, again, sadly, when he
retired, the new C.E.O. and his cronies brought Pan Am down to
ruination. They were a pale imitation of the original.
There is too much of this reinventing of the wheel. What the James
Bond movies need is not reinventing, but rather smart compelling
stories, each time out. Bond movies are about the probable, not the
impossible. And they are certainly not about stupid, inane
Yes, please, lose the stupidity. For example: the laser in the watch
bit is redundantly stupid. You would have thought that the corny,
campy spy knockoffs in the 60’s with their superfluous spy ware,
would have went out with the sixties, but Michael has sought fit,
and his writers as well, to keep that sort of rubbish alive, and then
tell us this is a darker, edgier story over the last one, or more
human and less gadgets. Why? Don’t insult my intelligence.
Now, let me say this here and now: Daniel Craig is NOT my James
Bond. Nor ever will be.
Nothing against him personally, as he was offered the part of a life
time, and I do not blame him whatsoever for taking the part, but
this failure again must rest with the producers, Michael G. Wilson
and Barbara Broccoli. There is a set perception as to what and how
James Bond should walk and talk, and this is not present here. We
fans know though, don’t we?
Furthermore, when I saw Michael G. Wilson in an interview say
that Madonna’s theme song for Die Another Day “was terrific,” I
knew then and there that that man had lost what little reason he
had left. That theme song would only appeal to someone either
stoned, brain dead, or just plain dead. It was a huge lack of respect
for what fans expected to hear. Madonna, who is capable of writing
fabulous ballads, should have given us something that reflects her
sultry voice ability, not the regurgitated gizmo pop techno-trash we
painfully had to hear. Take note, Mr. Wilson. We want to hear the
next Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die,
Tomorrow Never Dies. Not the Sheryl Crow drowsy crappy main
title, but the exciting and alive k.d. Lang version of “Surrender.” It
only takes listening to it to see my point! And of course I like Sheryl
Crow, but not this song. Surrender definitely belongs in the Bond
music and theme song cannon.
(As of this writing, my wife said that she liked the Die Another Day
song, and my immediate thoughts were where to find a divorce
lawyer on quick notice, though she agreed it wasn’t a Bond song,
and it was more of a workout song for her, thusly, she saved our
marriage. Thank you baby!).
In regard to the UCLA Screenwriter’s program, it is the Harvard
and/or Oxford of screenwriting schools on the planet. Bar none.
Yet, you cannot help but think of all of the employed screenwriters
in Los Angeles who must have driven by the campus, without
stopping. The graduates that have come from there are some of the
finest writers on the planet. That of course doesn’t mean you get to
see what they have written, because some idiot producer then hires
some hack writer, probably with an MTV background and makes
an utter mess of what was once a well-structured screenplay that if
filmed would make a great and entertaining movie. I know this first
hand friends, and painfully in too many cases.
What I hope you are seeing in this article is a massive problem with
the entertainment industry, as a whole, which reflects and sadly
ruins some of your favourite movies, and movies heroes. I wish it
were different and that common sense would somehow reign in
place of stupidity. The suits are like drug dealers. They are too
powerful, too set in their egotistical ways to change at present. As
long as we keep buying higher and higher priced tickets, and our
tastes keep getting more tasteless, they’ll keep slopping the troughs
like we were hungry pigs, ready to eat anything shoved before us.
I would not suggest a boycott, but maybe take the family on a
picnic, or take that trip to the Bahamas. You will find greater
refreshment for your soul. Perhaps, if there are enough picnics over
trips to the local cinema, then, maybe, perhaps, possibly,
contemplatively… things might change.
For Bond, I do remember a time when the movies led the way,
instead of blindly following others. Bond was not just action-
adventure, but a thriller. It was unique. I miss that. And as much
as fans want Pierce Brosnan back, we will still have Michael and
While the industry itself will continue on to whatever extent, the
Bond franchise may not. Perhaps the final nail will be in place
come this November.
S.P.E.C.T.R.E. No. 2
(SPecial—Executive for Common sense—Talent—and—Resourceful