It seems no one is happy in Hollywood right now.
In this month’s GQ, Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio sit down for an interview to promote their upcoming film, J. Edgar. During the interview, both men, who happen to be icons for each of their generations, lament on how difficult it is to greenlight serious dramas like the film they just colloborated on. I feel pity for them (sarcasm), but it does beg the question: if two guys of the status of Clint and Leo aren’t happy with the studio system these days, then who is?
Is it the suits? A week doesn’t pass without hearing one of my creative friends complain about pitching to someone who only sees their vision as some type of Moneyball formula: Actor X + Director Y = Genre Pic Z. I know my fair share of suits as well though, and from their side of the table, Hollywood doesn’t sound like a seller’s market these days.
A lot of Clint and Leo’s nostalgia is for 70s era cinema, when the director had the freedom to try new things and be auteurs. But those days are over unless your name is James Cameron. Actors ebb and flow their way to the top of the food chain. At their last peak, the action star era of the 80s, they were the movie stars. But in our current era, the franchises themselves have become the movie stars. What about writers? In television, maybe. In film? Please.
Tyler Perry made the most money in Hollywood last year but…was he really ‘in’ Hollywood? I’d argue no, which is part of why he’s so beloved and successful with his core audience. And what about ‘the audience’? In theory the goal of the game is to provide something that makes you want to leave home and experience it on the big screen in a dark room with a group of strangers. But have there been any ‘must see’ films this year (if you’re not a Harry Potter fan)?
So to summarize, the bean counters have little to no incentive to creating ‘great art’, the artists may have the desire but rarely have the power to push their vision through, and the audience is rarely motivated to come out en masse for a film. The question needs to be asked: will someone or something ‘rise’ that unites the business and creative sides of Hollywood, while pulling in the masses to see what the big deal is?
Was this whole post an elaborate ruse to post that trailer? No.
Am I willing to give Hollywood a free pass for another 296 days if it means there’s a reasonable chance the system pumps out one more above average Batman film? Yes.
Suck it America.