COLUMN: New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry in 2016
As I say every year, plenty of regular everyday people make New Year's Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too. Over the life of this website, this is my absolute favorite editorial to write every year. I have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change. I'm sarcastic, but I'm not the guy to take it to the false internet courage level of some Twitter troll. This will be as forward as I get all year. Some resolutions come true, while others get mentioned and reiterated every year. You would hope Hollywood would learn from those lessons going forward. Enjoy!
1. Continue the strong female protagonist momentum.-- The folks over at The Telegraph were on to something back in October. I'll go further and say Charlize Theron's performance in "Mad Max: Fury Road" was the best thing about that film and is a colossal step in the right direction to getting more strong female protagonist characters in lead roles. Theron was just one of many ("Trainwreck," "Room," "Brooklyn," "Joy," "Sicario," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"). We need more of them.
2. Keep bringing the LGBT stories to the mainstream.-- 2015 was a banner year for LGBT films: "Carol," "The Danish Girl," "Stonewall," "Grandma," and the festival favorite "I Am Michael." This is an under-represented demographic that deserves good stories and good films to dispel the rampant stereotypes that are out there. Keep them coming.
3. Speaking of platforms and demographics, Hollywood, do your part to help eliminate racism, xenophobia, and jingoism.-- Movies have long been influential to popular culture and public perception. With so much ethnic hate going on right now, movies can bring people together. They can be a place where bridges are built and wounds are healed. The right films, like "Chi-Raq." can help typify the issues at hand. I think Hollywood can do more and extend their scope to reach not just race relations, but Muslim and other religious differences that lead to xenophobia and jingoism.
4. Bring more feature documentaries to wider theatrical release.-- A great answer to help Resolution #4 is with a true-telling documentary being granted a wider audience. For as much as films can help send the right impressions, the wrong ones can add to the stereotyping and make issues worse. Documentaries can punch their tickets with non-fiction instead of fiction. There are stellar entries every year, but so few people see them.
5. Keep pushing the original content, Netflix.-- Speaking of content, Netflix, you flat out kick ass. You've revolutionized original content for television and I'm stoked that "Beasts of No Nation" is your first flag-bearer for taking over cinemas next. I see you, Netflix. Keep doing what you're doing. The world will soon be yours.
6. We can go back to trusting J.J. Abrams. He delivered.-- If the daily collapse of box office records isn't a big enough indicator, let the fan reaction speak for the rest. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" exceeded expectations and answered the monumental hype. We can go back to liking J.J. Abrams and not hating him for putting too much of his twisty stamp on both "Star Wars" and "Star Trek." You're back on top, sir.
7. Play your Lucasfilm hand more prudently and smoothly, Walt Disney Pictures.-- Abrams is one thing, but his most recent employer is not so attentive. Disney, I know you were built to pound merchandising relentlessly and make every penny in the known universe, but, if possible, could you be a little more prudent about it. I get that the "Star Wars" franchise is a Golden Goose that will make money forever. It isn't just an annual fad. Because you don't have to worry about it delivering, don't overdo it and over-saturate the market. I don't just mean the marketing. I mean leave "Indiana Jones" alone, your other Lucasfilm acquisition. I mean learn George Lucas's lesson and skip lame prequels and origin stories. No one needs a teen Han Solo or Boba Fett movie. At some point, with all of this endless noise, "Star Wars" becomes less special. It's more important and meaningful as a limited trilogy that only occurs every 2-3 years. If it's two-films-a-year perpetually (like Marvel), you are overplaying your hand for no reason. Play with supply and demand and stop overflooding the market.
8. Speaking of Disney and Golden Geese, solidify creative control over your Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero movies.-- This is Golden Goose #2. You think it's too big to fail, but, behind the scenes, I can see you burning bridges rather than building palaces. Yeah, I'm talking to you Kevin Feige. Just watch. Running Joss Whedon out of the building after "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is going to be a big mistake equal to what you did with Jon Favreau. Losing "Selma" director Ava DuVernay for "Black Panther" over "creative differences" before it even started showed more of this issue. Kevin and Disney, you're becoming the embodiment of "too many cooks in the kitchen." Let the people you hire do what you hired them to do. Let them have their creative vision and stop tinkering to get your way.
9. Hey, Warner Bros., ease up on the dark and brooding superheroes.-- Let's cross town to the other major superhero family. "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" better work, WB, or the whole plan you have is going to blow up in your face. I can handle your stuff, but you're going too dark. I like a serious Superman, but it's looking too doom-and-gloom. Ben Affleck is inspired casting, but this is going to test if it was too soon for a new Batman. Ask Sony. They tried to reboot "Spider-Man" too soon after Tobey Maguire. Now, they're toast and trying their third Spidey in a decade. Don't make their mistakes. Lighten up and give us something to hope for.
10. Please stop giving Adam Sandler your money to make movies and getting audience to buy tickets to see him.-- This is becoming an annual plea with this editorial. I continue to ask how much proof all of you need. He's the absolute worst and he keeps making movies and making money. Was "Pixels" not enough? Maybe we're getting to a tipping point, though. "Pixels" did bomb and his next film, "The Ridiculous 6" was reduced to VOD and Netflix. Keep that downward spiral going. Hit him where it hurts: his wallet. He's got enough money to just go away.
11. Speaking of hacks, Seth McFarlane has had his fifteen minutes.-- I didn't think much of "Ted," but you all fell for it and made it a hit. You gave that guy money and means and that turned into "A Million Ways to Die in the West," a terrible Oscar host job, and the lackadaisical "Ted 2." He's a one-note joke who just says the same thing in different voices. He's got nothing new to offer. He can go back to television now.
12. Stick a fork in the "Terminator" franchise.-- Sadly, it's over for any relevancy. Thanks to the re-writing of time in "Terminator: Genisys" that erases the 1984 original, the non-James Cameron stewards of this franchise have run the entire thing into the ground and ruined what lasting greatness it had left. This series has been beaten to death and it didn't deserve it. All we can do now is watch the 1984 original and "T2" like they are some time capsule and ignore everything that came afterwards.
13. Quit while you're ahead and stop making sidekicks into terrible movies.-- I'm not going to make a "Worst Films of 2015" list because I intentionally steered clear of so many ugly movies, but the top film on my list if I did rank would be "Minions." Call me Clint "Get Off My Lawn" Eastwood, but everything about that film was nails on a chalkboard to me. I know it made millions, but we can do better than that for family entertainment. The guys at "Honest Trailers" said everything that had been in my mind about "Minions" when it came out. You took the only fun supporting thing from a film and elevated it to something it isn't. This is just like why "Saturday Night Live" skits only work in eight-minute sketches and never in 90-minute movies. Please don't keep this sidekick crap coming. Write better main characters.
14. You can have Jennifer Lawrence. I'll take Alicia Vikander and Brie Larson.-- Everyone's "It Girl" for the last three years has been Jennifer Lawrence. Sure, she would be a hoot to have a beer and party with. She's the best late night and early morning couch interview subject in town. But, news flash, she's not that great of an actress. She's only good when David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle," "Joy") writes her an off-kilter part that allows her to rant. Everywhere else ("The Hunger Games"), she's flat and uninteresting. Want a real young star who can act? Look no further than Alicia Vikander ("Ex Machina," "The Danish Girl" and Brie Larson ("Room," "Trainwreck"). Both are exceptional at what they do and carry themselves with plenty of beauty and way more class.
15. Let "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" show you that there is still a place for practical effects over total CGI.-- The modern digital technology now is capable of creating anything to sparkling detail. Go see "The Good Dinosaur" for Pixar's best photo-realistic work to date. Sometimes though, the crudeness and imperfections of actual objects look more real than CGI perfection. Both aforementioned films used their fair share of digital assistance (yes, even "Mad Max: Fury Road"), but they used far more practical effects, stunts, and sets than their peers. Both garnered rave reviews for their looks. Keep that trend coming. If hipsters can go back to listening to music on vinyl instead of an iPod, maybe the movies can rewind and do the same.
16. Finally, as always, the book will always be better than the movie.-- I am obliged to say this resolution every year. Books and movies are different mediums and should be judged differently. Let the rants go and get over the griping. I don't care if it's "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Macbeth," let a movie be different because it's destined to be so. Enjoy them separately and judge them separately.