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David Poland

By David Poland

Deconstructing New Mythology

Studios drop big hints if a film is a potential bomb
Updated 5/30/2006 10:11 PM ET
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

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32 Responses to “Deconstructing New Mythology”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    I don’t understand your overall point…is it ‘nobody knows anything’? I especially don’t understand your final exclamation.

  2. Blackcloud says:

    I think this is in keeping with David’s view that “it’s all about the movie(s), stupid.” That is, in the end marketing will only do so much for a movie, and the rest is up to the movie itself. Although I get the impression that Bowles –or David thinks Bowles is doing this–both overstates and understates the effect of marketing.

  3. jeffmcm says:

    I don’t know, it feels to me that marketing is all that matters anymore. You can pretty much buy a big opening weekend if you have a presold concept, star, and big enough marketing budget for your movie. Like Click, as he says: it’ll make a ton of money, but probably won’t be very good.

  4. David Poland says:

    You can’t buy any opening you want… look at all the movies that don’t do it, no matter how much they spend.
    Click is a movie that regular people will really like. Period. Good and bad is opinion. If you like spinach, it’s good. If you don’t, it’s bad.
    And the points are laid out along the way… details, not a theme.
    The bottom line is, people want to believe there is a chemistry to all of this. But there isn’t. Bad movies aren’t from carelessness. Good movies aren’t always from the smartest, most talented people.
    What we do know is that 90% of the films released by studios will be bad movies by the standards of most critics. And 50% will be bad by the standards of most audiences.
    But you can have a $100 million gross based on a narrow swath of people who genuinely like what you hate. And as we saw in the last 10 days, over 50 million people went to go see The Da Vinci Code, no matter what “we” said. And no doubt, at least 20% LOVED it.
    What can ya do?
    My sense is that Bowles and many others are trying to quantify the current sense of critics being irrelevant so that it can be dealt with reasonably. But my bigger point is that in niche world, all things have their place.
    What is there to suggest that studios should offer movies they expect to be smacked to critics? Tradition. What suggests that studios should let all outlets have early access to every movie? Tradition.
    And what is the future of criticism? Why should studios respect us if our outlets and editors do not?
    What keeps it from being a complete free for all? Studios still want feature stories from majors. And if they want to keep the NYT happy, they won’t hide a lot more movies. And if they let the NYT see it, it only makes sense to let others see it to, theoretically, counterbalance Manohla’s pan.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    Fine, but what’s the bigger picture? When I watched The Da Vinci Code, was I supposed to be placated by thoughts of “well, plenty of other people like it so I guess it’s okay if it sucks”? Are we just supposed to roll over and let mediocrity prosper? Your (DP) attitude is laissez-faire almost to the point of nihilism, it seems.

  6. Wrecktum says:

    Poland are you saying that Click is an exceptional family comedy with strong audience appeal? Pretty strong statement, if so.
    Bowles’ piece is pretty shoddy, IMO, and does nothing more than add to the recent spate of articles about the slump, how bad movies are and how awful the theatrical experience has become. As I’ve mentioned before, what NATO needs to do is start a campaign to remind people how great and fun it is to go to the movies. And negative stories like Bowles’, which do nothing but play up Hollywood’s woes without offering anything interesting and new, need to stop.

  7. David Poland says:

    Business is business. Art is art. They don’t mix in any logical way.
    Get it?
    You know full well that I have strong a pronounced opinions abount movies. But you (nor anyone else reading me) are not my bitch. You get to have an opinion. I get to agree or disagree.
    And if you are so respectful of the opinions of good and bad, what the fuck were you doing at DVC? Are you a masochist?
    Or do you just want everything in the world to be in black and white? Because if you do, I don’t see how you can stand reading me for even one day, much less every day.
    I don’t mean to be insulting, but I don’t get what you want.
    “Roll over and let mediocrity propser?” What are you, the Aesthetically Correct Policeman? Do you have a big “A” on front of your uniform? Are you going to start killing bad directors in the style of their worst films?
    Medicority has ALWAYS prospered. Most people are in the middle. Middle = mediocre. If you can’t life with it, you can’t live.
    Even the smallest studio crap costs more than $50 million to put out. That is not art. That is business. And if we expect that $50 million – $400 million to be about pleasing the best expectations of every film, than we are idiots. If we can get a handful of wins a year, we should be thrilled. And the truth is, the small percentage of the public that cares barely supports those few great films that get squeezed past the sell-it-wide police. So we in media should probably focus of getting people to the films they resist but shouldn’t. But with due love to Manohla, she is busy comparing V For Vendetta to Claire Denis and insulting anyone who might like V…. that’s not helpful. I respect that she would prefer that people skip V AND Pink Panther, but if there is a choice,it is between them and Claire Denis is not involved….
    To me, being angry about The Benchwarmers on any level is an idiotic waste of energy. And frankly, if you or anyone else is such an enemy of mediocrity and want to take up the cudgel, find something more important to fight… like network news!
    You can’t win by fighting against mediocrity. You can only win – and in small ways – by fighting for something you believe in. How about more space in the New Times/Village Voice papers for smaller movies? (Am I crazy or did they really pay for 3 people to go to Cannes?)
    If USA Today really wants to help, push The Propositon or B13. Stop going to junkets. Run features with more serious discussions of the form.
    Personally, I see as many films as I always have, but I as simply skpping more and more crap and investing in seeing more docs and world cinema. There is no joy for me in ripping junk. And if I am to have any effect, it will be as an advocate of quality films that you may not see at your multiplex. So when people bitch about my festival coverage, I appreciate that they are bored… and I simply move on, doing work that can actually have an effect.
    If I went back to the traditional, all I would be is another fucking whiner, forever complaining about how great the good old days were and being only as meaningful to movies as the outlet that employs me. I am the farthest thing from laissez-faire. I put my shit on the table and work it as best I can.
    But again, please tell me what you really want, J Mc?

  8. palmtree says:

    When critics approach a Sandler movie or some such film, there is little sense that they even respect what is being shown. What I admire about someone like Pauline Kael is that she gleans interesting things from movies that are not meant to be great, meanwhile trashing movies that are sanctimonious. The reviewer should be figuring out what an audience will or should notice in movie, not premeditated opinions.

  9. David Poland says:

    I am saying Click will be a winnner, Wreck. Premise is a winner. Sandler is a winner.
    And I don’t know whether I will find it joyous or irritating. I do know it’s not Little Nicky. Whether it’s 50 First Dates (good and popular with women) or Big Daddy (not good and still poplular across the board), I don’t know.

  10. David Poland says:

    More than ever, Palm, I believe there is room for every kind of critic, as there is for every kind of movie.
    The tyranny of the local paper is over. Audiences need to take responsibility to find the people that speak well to them. But with a little effort, it can be done. If your taste is Jon Rosenbaum, go for it. Jeffrey Lyons… I hate you… but go for it.

  11. jeffmcm says:

    Wow, you’re angry these days, DP.
    I just don’t see the point of this commentary. It’s a fairly harmless, uninteresting guide to tell people how to spot stinkers, that you felt the need to deconstruct. But why? What message are you trying to send? All I can get is ‘there is no truth’.
    How does this commentary make the world a better place? I know that sounds hopelessly naive and idealistic, but is there an answer?

  12. David Poland says:

    Not angry, J Mc… just not in the mood for negative, unfocused bullshit.
    Sorry you don’t get it. Guess not everyone is meant to get everything I write. Life goes on.

  13. jeffmcm says:

    Well, I don’t see how Bowles was negative. But thanks for trying.

  14. jeffmcm says:

    Although to be truly honest: if you can’t explain why a piece of writing is good for people, it begs the question of why write it at all.
    I’d love it if someone else was willing to explain it to me, in short, one-syllable words if necessary.

  15. palmtree says:

    Jeff, it is good because it is the way it works. I gather you read Mr. P to find out how this business operates from the inside, because aside from his reviews, content here is mainly movie marketing, movie distribution patterns, shortening windows, executive musical chairs, etc. It’s not real cinephile stuff…it’s much more realkinema. Judging something without understanding it is far more naive. That is Mr. Poland’s message.
    Btw, Rosenbaum is one of my favorite critics…but it’s precisely his ability to treat “crap” with respect. I mean, the guy put Small Soldiers in his top ten of that year and compares it favorably against Saving Private Ryan.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    Rosenbaum views movies through a particular set of political filters, which is great in some cases (like appreciating Small Soldiers) but very predictable in other cases (like calling The World the best film of last year).
    You’re right, Palmtree, that DP’s approach is very business-oriented. My complaint, which I know he disagrees with, is that I’ve been reading him for seven years now and over that time he’s gradually spent more and more time covering box-office and business and less and less time writing reviews and discussing movies themselves. And I am finally finding that boring enough that I’ll probably move on. Life’s too short.
    (By the war, just because something is ‘the way it works’ is never justification for calling it ‘good’. Quite the opposite, most of the time.)

  17. palmtree says:

    ‘the way it works’ is never justification for calling it ‘good’
    Personally, I come here for the business stuff. It’s detailed, it’s opinionated, and it’s relatively user friendly.
    Your typo “war” is apropo…filmmaking is a battle between artists and commerce, but just because history writes about great artists doesn’t mean that they can do it alone.

  18. jeffmcm says:

    Spielberg does okay doing both, and I am not opposed to ‘commerce’ per se. It just seems like there is no sense of communal support in Poland’s attitude any more…crap will come and audiences will take it and there’s nothing to be done about it. More and more often, DP’s pieces are less about helping ordinary people avoid bad stuff (why bother if they’re going to lap it up anyway?) and more and more about him proving himself to be smarter and mre savvy than other writers out there.
    (DP, please spare me the inevitable outrage…it’s pre-undersstood).

  19. adorian says:

    Peter Travers is ___________.
    a. a film critic
    b. a movie reviewer
    Please answer and discuss.

  20. Me says:

    While I understand and agree with a lot of Dave’s comments to the article, I think in some cases he’s talking about exceptions rather than the rules (which seems to be what this article was going for).
    It’s okay to say that the studio was high on Benchwarmers, but what niche audience were they thinking the movie would play with? Not the one that reviews are written for. Nor for the one that would read an article like this (which, I would argue are one and the same – the audience that actually reads newspapers). I think it is fair to say that for the audience of this article, if a movie isn’t screened for reviewers, most likely, it isn’t going to be received well.
    As Dave likes to say, it’s all about niche.

  21. David Poland says:

    PT is c. A whore who has lowered the level of discourse.
    And Me, if the media had a 15-year-old critics crew, I can guarentee you that 90% of these unscreened movies would screen.
    Yes, everyting is an exception to the rule. It is too easy to forget that every day, people are at these studios challenging themselves to find the “right” answers to every movie they release, not just the “good” ones.

  22. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    “while RV has done $57 million and saw ticket sales increase this weekend after five weeks in theaters.”
    er, that’s a complete lie.

  23. Brett B says:

    “Are you going to start killing bad directors in the style of their worst films?”
    That’s not a bad idea for a movie

  24. David Poland says:

    See Theater of Blood, Brett… a classic.

  25. David Poland says:

    Crazily, the RV figure is true for 4 days… vs last weekend’s 3 day… if you count in Monday from the weekend before, it still wasn’t up.
    There was also a false RV blowjob in Variety earlier this week… guess they are feeling Da Vinci guilt… or they can’t/chose-not-to count.

  26. Nicol D says:

    Perhaps the real question is can film, a still young medium in the course of human history, be art when there is so much commerce involved?
    Of course there are exceptions, but it seems like film is entering into another phase.
    Can something that costs so much money, with all that that entails reflect one persons true vision so that it is art.
    Again, Kubrick could do it, as can Spielberg or Bergman etc…
    But it does seem to look for ‘art’ in the standard Hollywood studio release is to look for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow…or bottom of a well.
    Craftsmanship perhaps, but art?

  27. Tofu says:

    KC, they are talking about the four-day weekend… Which is bending the truth, but RV was the only one in the top ten to go up (9%) over the 4-day compared to last 3-day weekend. The rest dropped at least 20%, except for Ice Age… Which dropped .2% compared to last weekend.

  28. jeffmcm says:

    To sort of return to the original topic, I note that Rex Reed is linked on Matt Drudge’s page. So Drudge has pretty low, weird standards for who qualifies.

  29. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Okay, I wasn’t looking at the four-day numbers when I looked them up.
    That’s still sneaky writing.

  30. Cadavra says:

    RV’s legs are strong because there haven’t been any other family comedies of late (except HEDGE, which skews too young for most teens). A perfect example of why release dates can be so important.

  31. Chucky in Jersey says:

    At least one Gannett-owned paper in my state has picked up that story from USA Today.
    These same Gannett papers write breathlessly about a film festival at Rutgers University with the premise “All movies in theaters, bad; all movies in film festivals, good.” The film festival is really a second-run theater — and the festival’s director is a thug who doesn’t want the local megaplexes running arty stuff.

  32. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Interesting thing I noticed the other day. On an ad for Poseidon the voiceover man said “The first blockbuster of the year from Warner Brothers”

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon