Monday, May 4, 2009

RT: The New York Times memos

The hit-or-miss nature of America's Most Important Newspaper* scored a big hit in this weekend's Summer Movies section with its "Memos to Hollywood" bit by critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.

*And don't you forget it!

Granted, the critics missed on some key points, but they proved that those with a critical eye for film often think alike. Some highlights:

To: Heads of production, Sony, Universal, Paramount, Fox, Disney

Cc: Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Katz and all their Facebook Friends

From: A.O.S.

You all keep trying to make Rock Hudson-Doris Day-style romantic comedies with the golden guys and gals of the moment, and the results are sexless, subtextless, bland career-girl-in-search-of-Mr.-Right retreads. Meanwhile, a bunch of hungry directors with digital cameras, time on their hands and not much money are making free-form studies about tentative hookups and long conversations among actual, overeducated, undermotivated young folks.

Hollywood, it’s time to co-opt those dudes! Give them enough money for song credits and some production values and let them reinvent movie romance for this age of diffident couplings and vigorous social networking. And dudes, remember: you’re never too young or too hip to sell out.


To: Filmmakers, especially under 40

From: M.D.

The tripod is your friend. Few filmmakers can pull off florid handheld camerawork because most aren’t saying all that much through their visuals, handheld or not. (Also: Shaking the camera does not create realism.) Though it’s a cliché of contemporary cinema, fiction and nonfiction both, handheld camerawork that calls aggressive attention to itself tends to make empty images seem even emptier. If you want us to notice your cinematography, make sure you have something to say, like the French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (“Demonlover”), whose restlessly moving images convey a searching intelligence. He isn’t just waving the camera around; he’s saying something about the world and the people in it.


To: Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese

From: A.O.S.

Think small again! Your buddy Francis Ford Coppola has made his last couple of movies on a relative shoestring in Romania and Argentina. Brian De Palma shot “Redacted” on video with an unknown cast. You are fortunate to be able to do just about anything you want, and you’ve certainly earned the right to work on a large scale. But it’s also sad to think that your days of small, scrappy, personal movies are behind you. Well, maybe they aren’t. Maybe you could go scout a location or two. Work with available light, a skeleton crew and unsung actors. Fly by the seat of your pants. Just for old times’ sake.

And, in closing:

To: Hollywood

From: A.O.S. & M.D.

Yes, green is good. But there is no ecological benefit in recycling intellectual properties or in treating pop-culture treasures like so much scrap material. Let us read our comic books and watch our DVDs of old movies and television shows and try to capture our imaginations with something new. So, enough with the serial killers (unless you’re David Fincher); period dramas; movies in which children die or are endangered; (bad) literary adaptations; superhero epics; tween-pop exploitation vehicles; scenes with bubble-breasted women working the pole in strip clubs; shady ladies with hearts of gold; Google Earth-like zoom-ins of the world; sensitive Nazis; sexy Nazis; Nazis period; dysfunctional families; dysfunctional families with guns; suburban ennui; suburban ennui with guns; wisecracking teenagers; loser dudes scoring with hot women who would never give them the time of day even if they were drunk out of their minds or too young to know any better (hello, Judd Apatow!); feature films that should have been sketch comedy routines; shopping montages; makeover montages; bromances (unless the guys get it on with each other); flopping penises; spray-on tans; Kate Hudson; PG-13 horror remakes; or anything that uses any of the “classic” songs that we are sick of hearing. What’s left? We don’t know. Isn’t that your job?

Funny about the David Fincher comment ... haven't we heard that before? At least once? And the "classic songs" comment, too?

Really, the whole final memo is pretty close to perfect. But where's the complaint about sports movies?

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