COLUMN: New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry in 2017
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. Annually, including this sixth edition, 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 (Hallelujah! No Adam Sandler or Seth MacFarlane tentpoles this year!), while others get mentioned and reiterated every year. You would hope Hollywood would learn from those lessons going forward. Alas, here we go again! Enjoy!
1. Don’t let the upcoming political landscape affect your artistry or your escapism-- This is an editorial and I’ll step out to admit to being an ardent non-supporter of the President Elect and what he stand for. I am one of those people who thinks we are heading to uncharted and risky territory. MTV (of all places) wrote a dynamite challenge on inclusiveness that was brought to my attention by Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips. Like the article, I will join the many that will implore artists to keep creating, speakers to keep speaking, and audiences to keep enjoying. Movies are cultural expressions and entertaining escapes through good times and in bad. Always keep it that way.
2. Don’t lose your momentum for strong female protagonists-- In a follow-up to last year’s banner year that included “Mad Max: Fury Road,”“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and many others, I feel like 2016 slipped just a little in this resolution statement. Felicity Jones (“Rogue One”), Natalie Portman (“Jackie”), Jessica Chastain (“Miss Sloane”), and Emma Stone ("La La Land") count as a few standouts and the ensemble "Ghostbusters" cast was not that film's problem. More are needed going into 2017 with a new less-than-feminist President and his obvious “boy’s club” mentality. Keep pushing back.
3. Don’t have another #OscarsSoWhite ever again-- Bravo to “Moonlight,” “Fences,” and “Hidden Figures” for leading the charge for minorities this current awards season. Mahershala Ali, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris, and Octavia Spencer looks like locks for Oscar nominations. Award bonus points for Ava DuVernay’s “13th” likely scoring in the documentary field. That is a wonderful knee-jerk improvement from 2016, but more can be done. Count me in camp that thinks “The Birth of a Nation” deserves better appreciation and smaller films like “Southside with You,” “The Fits,” and “Kicks” needing larger audiences. The other place where more can be done is with other minorities. Hispanic, Indian, and Asian performers and creators have had it just as bad, if not worse.
4. Continue the mainstream push for LGBTQ+ celebration and representation-- Last year had “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” garnering acclaim and minor awards. This year, with “Moonlight,” an LGBTQ+-focused film might just win the whole enchilada on Oscar night. That’s a fantastic step up. Keep going!
5. Disney/Marvel, please pay Fox and Sony whatever they want to bring your universe under one roof-- “Captain America: Civil War” got Spider-Man more right in 15 minutes than two franchises and five films did in 15 years and counting at Sony Pictures. It’s time to let the kid go come, and “X-Men: Apocalypse” went a little off the rails for Fox. I get that Sony (“Spider-Man”) and Fox (“Deadpool” and “X-Men”) aren’t going to let go of their cash cow properties without hefty compensation. Co-financing and sharing creative control on the upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is nice, but we can untangle this with cash. If anyone can afford it, it’s the deep pockets of Disney, who has easily earned back the $4 billion it cost to buy all of Marvel in the first place. What’s another few billion bones thrown to two studios?
6. Course correction is needed in the other superhero universe-- Marvel maintains its (often-referenced on this site) “blueprint” for success by anointing another smaller character in “Doctor Strange” as a new star for the masses. They have the Midas Touch and Warner/DC is still playing catch-up. While I personally may not share all of the the critical and audience backlash levied upon “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” this year, tweaks are needed (different filmmakers, different writers, different planning) and they can be achieved without completely copying Marvel. Let’s hope new creative head Geoff Johns is the elixir.
7. Let Denis Villeneuve be the “franchise viagra” for filmmakers that Dwayne Johnson is as an actor-- After “Prisoners,” “Enemy,” “Sicario,” and now “Arrival,” I now fully trust anything Denis Villeneuve decides to shoot. Getting ahead of myself for an upcoming post, his presence steering the ship for Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner 2049” is one of my most anticipated films of 2017. Hell, just let him give “Alien: Covenant” a once over to before release. The man has vision and a perfect pitch for tension and heady suspense. Let that man direct whatever he wants, and speaking of The Rock, he gets his universal appeal tested next year with a “Jumanji” remake and “Baywatch.”
8. Put more depth of heart and less dumb antics in family films-- This is a soapbox I recently put cuss words to on a guest appearance on the “Kicking the Seat” podcast, but I want better family film options with more heart. Pixar with their “Pixar Punch” has long done it right, but for every “Inside Out” there are four “Minions”-level trash heaps of frenetic pointlessness. This year possessed its share of wasted good premises that digress to stupidity in films like “Sing,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “The Angry Birds Movie.” In 2017, we get “The Emoji Movie” to roll our eyes at even more. For me, give me more of fare like “Pete’s Dragon,” Disney’s under-appreciated gem that evoked legitimate family heart and charm.
9. Please give Mark Wahlberg something different to do-- I know he’s consistently successful, but I feel like Mark Wahlberg plays the same character, a manly hero version of himself, every single time he’s on the silver screen. He pays for his own hero worship with “Deepwater Horizon,” “Patriots Day,” and, in 2017, “Transformers: The Last Knight.” To me, he’s reaching a Jason Statham territory of dull repetition and sounds like this old “Saturday Night Live” joke every time.
10. Learn something from “La La Land”-- To circle it all back to the power of the arts, Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is a special movie experience. When I say learn something, I don’t mean imitate it immediately and start churning out endless movie musicals. I mean find and allow filmmakers to play out their passions and creativity to the fullest degree without studio interference to make a cookie cutter product. Tim Burton used to be Damien Chazelle and look at him now. Let them loose and let them take chances. More often than not, you get magic. Let the magic happen.