Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dear Nikke Finke, You're Retarded: 2.25

(with apologies to all mentally-handicapped people out there for that title-- it's just that I think retarded is such a fun word, notwithstanding its icky discriminatory history. . . although I wonder if a mentally-handicapped person will ever read this blog. . . I think of one powering up his computer in his O'Donnell-inspired mismatched socks)

Anyway, on to the post.

As an 'insider', I'm well-aware that the studio system, "Hollywood" as it were, blows goats. So I'm usually a fan of nearly all proposed reforms having anything to do with it and read a recent column by Nikki Finke, of the LA Weekly, with enthusiasm. But Finke, well, she's come up with some ideas that are just, well, not all of them are good. In fact, a lot of them are blatantly stupid. To read her full article, click here.

Normally, I'd think an indie writer for a publication like the LA Weekly would come up with solutions that would promote artistic integrity, seek out new voices, and really change the content of theaters. But Finke's ideas seem to be aimed at maximing studio profits-- which is fine, too. After all, movie studios are big businesses before they're artistic endeavors. Now, some of her ideas aren't retarded, some of them are quite good. And some of them are really bad. Let's see what I'm talking about.

1) Get Rid of Everyone: Finke would replace the entire corporate structure of her fictional studio. This is one of those populist ideas that I'd expect a LA Weekly writer to propose. It's not terrible, although a more sensible writer would probably keep a few old people around-- there is something to be said for experience, after all. On the whole though, shaking up a studio like this might not be a bad idea.

2) No More "R" Movies: Instead, Finke would require that all blood, gore, nudity, profanity, and sex be cut to a minimum. I'm sorry, but what the motherf**king f**k? Is she from Mississippi or something? No nudity/sex means no international sales and leaves a gaping hole in our market for hot Spanish, French or Italian films to slip in. Besides, any movie with adult themes will almost always get an "R". So cutting out any "R" movie is essentially a recipe for Disney crap. See, not what you'd expect from a columnist for an indie rag like LA Weekly. (rag is just slang for a newspaper/magazine of some type)

3) More and Mostly Comedies: Argh. Finke would pick "a $40 million comedy" over "a $180 million movie based on a comic book". Yeah, they're cheap to make and have a somewhat better track record than comic book movies, but what Finke doesn't seem to understand is that both types of films have their place on film studio slates. If Hollywood took her advice, the few summer blockbusters that have done well wouldn't exist, and studios would be depending on movies like "The Honeymooners" and "Deuce Bigalow 2".

4) I'm Only Worth $1: This is a good idea. Finke would restructure exec pay to reflect performance and come back down to Earth. That'd mean less pressure on each studio to cover those outrageous exec salaries.

5) Phooey to the Agents: I'm not sure how exactly Finke would get rid of agents. While this idea is interesting in some respects, it's too idealistic to ever happen. Moving on...

6) I Don't Want to Thank: Finke says: "I promise shareholders to never make a money-losing movie with Charlie Kaufman or P.T. Anderson just in the hopes of winning an Oscar and feeding my ego." Fine, except for the fact that most movies that win Oscars are a) good and draw people into the theaters who might not go otherwise b) usually get a big financial boost with an Oscar win. While taking the ego out of the biz is good, displaying a preference for the writers of "XXX" over "Magnolia" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is a one-way ticket to piece-of-crap-movie-ville.

7) Stop Dicking Around: Not allowing studio execs to fraternize is a very, very good idea. Finke is spot-on with this one.

8) No Nest-Feathering: Sadly, the line between cronyism and wanting to work with people you like is hard to pin down. It'd be nice if we could stop cronyism, but, even if enforceable, I doubt this rule would go too far toward solving Ho'wood's more pressing problems.

9) Start With Screenwriters: Again, not a bad idea, if a bit idealistic. Although I think as a studio head, I'd be a little more worried about working with a writer with a known addiction (ie- one that's currently raging out of control) than she is. Frankly, as long as they get the job done, I don't care if they're filling their veins with heroin. It's just that junkies aren't big on deadlines.

10) No Inside Jobs: Big actors having personal screenwriters is, by and large, a big bad, although I'm not sure what exactly Finke means by filling scripts with inside jokes. Here's where an example would've been nice. At present, this one just seems like another potshot at the studio system. She is right that Hollywood would be better off if big actors didn't let their personal scriptmonkeys sabotage good screenplays in the name of making them 'right' for the actor.

11) Fix Filmdom's Image: Finke wants lobbying money to be diverted to a PR campaign to clean up Hollywood's image. Granted, the idea's interesting. But it's also stupid. Industries with much worse PR than Hollywood (she insists only Big Oil has it worse, which is certainly arguable-- how about Big Tobacco, Trial Lawyers and Big Business generally) don't bother with PR campaigns. Why? Because they know the facts-- lobbying politicians for favorable treatment is much more effective than lobbying the general public. Besides, if Hollywood has such an image problem, business would be much worse. And hello, since when is controversy that bad for business? Look at what it did for Michael Moore.

12) More Gimmicks: Oh, yeah, Nikke, that's just what Hollywood needs. Not better films, not a wider array of film choices for the viewing public, not better budgeting/cost control, not more savvy marketing-- just good gimmicks. Oy.

Listen, Nikke, let's make a deal: you don't impose your idiocy on Hollywood and I won't tell you how sh*tty of a LA Weekly columnist you are.

See, Rosie, even special people can become LA Weekly columnists!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we really need, Atlas, is for Hollywood to stop trying to win the last war over and over again. The trouble is, whenever there's a big hit, they just try to make the same movie again and again. Or hybridize two big hits -- the classic: "Film X meets Film Y" seems to be the invariable line to get a studio exec's attention.

It's up to you, A: you're the guy who reads all these scripts. Find good ones that aren't just old ideas warmed over.

7:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here to the last comment. I think what would be even more useful is if the whole format of pitching and loglines could be changed. When you have to summarize a good script in a single sentence, what catches on is crap with a good hook.

9:32 AM

Blogger Jason B. said...

pretension ahead:

Hollywood is a bit like the noble emperor penguin. (See March of the Penguins!) It's funny looking and strange and exists in a harsh environment, but it exists in the form it does because it works - ala natural selection.

12:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wut the fuck is your problem with retards. Gosh you're a jerk, burn in hell!!!!

10:58 PM


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