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Survey: New Year’s Resolutions the Movie Industry Needs to Make

Survey: New Year's Resolutions the Movie Industry Needs to Make

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” is skipped this week.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: What New Year’s Resolutions would you like you see the movie industry commit to in 2015?

Monica Castillo, Movie Mezzanine, Paste

I have my fingers crossed for a more diverse Hollywood. I doubt 2015 is going to be a landmark year for this, but I really do hope that we see progress instead of regression. So many fans, audiences, and critics have become loudly critical of Hollywood’s lack of diversity both in front and behind the camera, that I think it’s high time for Hollywood to listen. I’d like Hollywood to acknowledge women and people of color as more than niche audiences and more like the near the majority of ticket buyers they are (they were 52% and 45% of moviegoers, respectively). 

Nell Minow, Beliefnet

Besides better security for their IT systems?  A little more class and integrity in their emails?  I’d add to the resolution list: No cold opens and no conflicting one-and-only critics screenings, And adopt the Geena Davis two-step plan for increasing diversity onscreen:

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

Same for other kinds of diversity including ethnic and disability.  Maybe the plumber is in a wheelchair or the pilot is black or the construction foreman is Hispanic.  Maybe the cop is from Southeast Asia.  Maybe the taxi driver is gay.  It’s a big world out there.  Let’s see that in movies.

Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene, Interface 2037

Some resolutions for the movie industry. 

I. For every comic book movie any studio releases, they will also distribute a subtitled foreign-language film.

II. Diversify the kind of films being produced, the kind of people being cast, and the kinds of stories being told. 

III. For every $200M that a studio makes overseas, they invest a percentage in films specifically focused on the domestic moviegoer (meaning with black people and gays and specific points of view about real life issues).

IV. Stop wasting so much paper with these For Your Consideration books. We get that you want to cover all bases, but it’s so wasteful.

V. Take more chances on cheaper, weirder films.

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

Stop dividing franchise finales into two parts. Hire more Ava DuVernays and fewer Jonathan Liebesmans. And, for goodness sake, remember that starting an original franchise is more fun than milking an old one to death.

Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com, Some Came Running

The resolution the movie industry should make is to not do the thing that Mark Harris describes in his Grantland article “The Birdcage.” They should just scrap all their franchise and comic book movie plans and start fresh. That’s it. It’ll break poor Devin Faraci’s heart but sometimes tough love is the best love. 

Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

After reading Jason Bailey’s great piece in Flavorwire on the death of mid-budget cinema, I’d like to see the movie industry resolve to take a breather for one year, break apart big budgets into two or three, and see what happens. Just one year. Think of it like a diet.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

Bring back mid-budget features. Bring back mid-budget features. Bring back mid-budget features.

Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com, Vulture

For studios, I’d like to see fewer adaptations of existing properties, comic books aimed at boys especially, but also other properties. Also less use of business words like “property” and “franchise” to describe stories and characters, by critics especially; we become part of the problem when we talk like that.  We aren’t working for the PR department, let’s stop behaving as if we are.

There are too many reboots, too many remakes, too many variations on the same old. I don’t know exactly what ails the movie business, but I suspect that paralysis in the face of the unknown and untried is a big part of it. Give some original screenplays a chance. Give new directors a chance. Start thinking like storytellers again.

Ben Travers, Indiewire

I’d love to see the movie industry resolve to stop trying to make movies into television shows. And by that, I don’t mean turning former films into TV shows. That seems to be working out fine (thanks for “Fargo”!). I mean the creation of never-ending franchises. Marvel has ruined it for everyone by making movies that don’t exist as standalone entities — half the allure of going to the movies — but rather small parts of a larger whole. I’d like to go see a movie that’s more than just an ad for another movie in 2015. Is that too much to ask?

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Take risks on smaller, weirder movies. If your first reaction is, “I love this thing, but it’s not commercial,” think harder. There’s more room than ever before to experiment with distribution and audiences craving for something different. Capitalize on that. Film culture thrives on risk.

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, What the Flick?!

For every $250 million movie that a studio produces, they must also produce 25 $10 million movies. Fat chance, but resolutions are always thinking big.

Richard Brody, New Yorker

One of the oddest things about filmmaking is that its practice ought to be more like writing or painting but is usually approached like architecture: a major project with major funding or nothing. The prospect of daily production, of trial and practice, is shunted aside–despite the ready availability of inexpensive video equipment–by the nature of movie financing, which is usually delivered as a budget for a single movie. One of Jean-Luc Godard’s longtime wishes, and one that was fulfilled, for a while, in the nineteen-eighties, was to be paid annually so that he could allocate money to projects as the impulse struck him, and could shoot frequently whether or not the work fit into a feature film already en route. This desire may be one of his idiosyncrasies, but I suspect that it’s one that other filmmakers would share if the opportunity presented itself. There are daring independent producers who finance boldly original films, but it might be useful for them to finance some filmmakers for a little while — to give certain directors an annual budget and income over the span of a few years and agree loosely on at least the minimum and type of work that would emerge at the end of the term. I suspect that these temporary laboratories would incubate wonders.

Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

Resolutions are so easily broken. While I would love to curb industry folks from making bad biopics, insipid, unfunny and sexless rom-coms, superhero films that bore me to the back teeth, films with syrupy musical scores that tell viewers how to feel, as well as films that feature Meryl Streep, I acknowledge that they will anyway, and maybe I should just resolve to see fewer of them.

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second

I wish for this to happen every year in these kind of polls, but here goes. I would like to see the American film industry take greater care of their legacy and archives. 

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

I’d like to see the industry resolve to not cave to terrorism, but I suppose that might be a bridge too far for them.

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

As evidenced by the catastrophe with “The Interview,” I’d love for the movie industry to get its spine back. (Or, just get a damn spine.) At first, it seemed like it was just Sony that was kowtowing to hacker/North Korean pressure and, in the process, acting like a chicken with its head cut off. But then Paramount barred theaters from screening “Team America: World Police,” and — if George Clooney’s comments should be taken at face value — other studios clammed up and refused to acknowledge that bowing to what are essentially ransom demands is a cowardly act. So, as unlikely as it is to happen, I’d like for the industry to get a spine and/or finally get that well-needed gift of courage from the Wizard in 2015.

Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, ABQ Free Press

Anything I would wish they would do would be ignored…stop with the 3D and superhero stuff already? How about some heady westerns like “The Hired Hand” instead. 

Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot

Paradoxically, I’d like to see them ignore all the resolutions we want them to make, because overthinking what the audience wants is the problem. I’d like them to make their own resolutions independently of us, and put out the kinds of things they want to put out, without pandering to what they think is in demand.

Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter

4K, standard.

Greg Cwik, Indiewire, the Believer

I assume most responses will be something along the lines of hiring more women directors, since Hollywood has a pretty lackluster track record and seems determined to resist change for as long as humanly possible; all those grumpy old white guys in frumpy suits who still think Bob Hope is funny, who definitely aren’t racist because they voted for Sidney Poitier in 1964, and who *really* support women directors, it’s just that there are no interesting women directors right now and why should we give a job to someone undeserving just because they’re a woman? That’s unfair! So to avoid redundancy, I’ll kindly ask the film industry to give Brady Corbet a job. I haven’t seen him in a movie in ages. 

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

I’d love for the movie industry to adopt the resolution of ceasing with pointless and unfair embargoes for film reviews. I can roll with embargoes if everybody’s lips are zipped. But they become ludicrous and punitive if festival press, trade publications and/or studio-approved writers are allowed to review while everybody else is sworn to silence. Embargoes have become increasingly irrelevant in the Internet age.

Sean Burns, Movie Mezzanine, Spliced Personality

In an ideal world I would love to see studios and their regional publicity representatives adopt a less hostile attitude toward members of the reviewing press, and hopefully finally understand that in the end we all ultimately share the same goal – which is to get people going to and talking about the movies.

But since that probably isn’t going to happen I’d settle for no more “Transformers” sequels.

Q.V. Hough, Vague Visages

I’d like to see a collective shift towards “Cinema” and less online bickering. Hollywood will continue to pump out popcorn blockbusters, but indie filmmakers have more and more ways to reach audiences online with their productions while offering insight on their influences. Today, an aspiring filmmaker may not be familiar with Ingmar Bergman, but may learn that a favorite indie director was heavily influenced by him (or whomever). That can change everything.

I’m a big fan of “Screentalk,” the Indiewire podcast hosted by Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson along with several others out there. I think it’s great that both film critics and indie filmmakers can open up the eyes of casual moviegoers by reaching out online and vice versa. I post daily images of my favorite films on Vague Visages, and it’s my hope that filmmakers, cinephiles and casual movie-watchers can either learn something new or be inspired to watch something new.

John DeCarli, FilmCapsule
resolutions for the movie industry are pretty simple, and I imagine
they’d be the same as most cinephile’s. I could sum it up by wishing
that Hollywood simply support the original visions of innovative
filmmakers. It’s become old hat to bemoan the amount of franchise
properties that flood the multiplexes, but it truly is a problem. Even
talented filmmakers can’t get their voices to the screen in a system
like Marvel’s — just look at Edgar Wright dropping out of “Ant-Man.” So I
think that the industry should resolve to create a space for the
ambitious, mid-budget, adult drama. They don’t have to axe all
franchises (though I wouldn’t mind it), but they should ensure that they
don’t suffocate every other form of filmmaking.

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