Denouement: This Post About Tired Filmmaker Cliches Is NOT About Tired Filmmaker Cliches
I picked up Entertainment Weekly's Fall Movie Preview the other day because I love getting my hopes up for movies that will almost always end up disappointing me. (This is the same reason I love watching trailers; most movies are great until you actually watch them). Anyway, I read through the whole thing and I noticed a rather annoying pattern among the movie capsules. I'll show you what I mean by reprinting the following quotes from the issue:
"Moneyball" director Bennett Miller: ''It's not a baseball movie. Period.''
"The Ides of March" director/star George Clooney: ''I don't really find it to be a movie about politics."
"Real Steel" star Hugh Jackman: ''As badass as I think the (boxing) robots are, the movie is really about the father and son and the relationship between them.''
Get the drift? Apparently, none of the movies coming to you this fall are about what they're, you know, ABOUT. The "We are NOT this movie" meme doesn't end with those three.
"The Iron Lady" director Phyllida Lloyd: ''As much as the film is about the roller coaster of her extraordinary political career ... it's also about family and love and loss and bereavement."
Okay, well at least SOME of the movie is about what it's supposed to be about. Perhaps a legit 40 percent.
Then there's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" executive producer Steven Zaillian: ''Some people are going to come to it with a preconceived notion of what it is ... At the end of the day, it is and it isn't those things."
Oh, well thank you very #$%^ing much for clearing that up. It is what I think it is and it isn't, which is better than "Moneyball," which apparently goes out of its way to NOT be about what I think it's about even though it's CLEARLY about what I think it's about.
This is a disease among filmmakers and studios at this point. No wonder movies this year have sucked so badly. No movie is ever about ANYTHING. "Moneyball" can't just be a baseball movie: God forbid it alienate people who don't like baseball. No, no. It has to be about "a man in crisis," or "new ways of thinking," or some other ludicrously broad phrase that isn't a real idea. When I go to see "Real Steel" (and I won't), I'm going because I want to see a movie about BOXING ROBOTS. I don't want to see a movie about fathers and sons. There are fathers and sons all over the place. If the movie is all about fathers and sons, then I'm gonna feel shortchanged out of all the robot boxing I was shown in the trailer.
Filmmakers and actors always want to leap over the basic premise of a movie and cram its apparent deeper meaning down your throat. "MI:4" isn't about spies: It's about THE LACK OF TRUST IN THE WORLD TODAY. " J. Edgar" isn't about J. Edgar Hoover: It's about POWER. Filmmakers are starting off with the meaning of the film first and the actual idea second, and that's bass ackwards.
A good movie has one clean idea that the viewer can derive meaning from. It isn't something forced upon you. It isn't spoonfed to you. "The Godfather" is a great mob movie. It also echoes greater themes of family and loyalty and all that, but those are secondary to the idea that it's about THE MOB DOING MOBBY THINGS. That's how it's supposed to work. Hollywood people are so eager to have their stupid movie mean something that they forget to make the movie about anything.