Hollywood Hackery

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Nothing
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Hollywood Hackery

#1 Post by Nothing » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:54 am

knives wrote:The hackery of modern Hollywood is the same as old school Hollywood.
I disagree. There was always a place for artistry in Hollywood, however limited or constrained, but this has changed with the shift of studio ownership to multinational conglomerates, with accountants and non-film people at the helm, crunching numbers and refusing to take even the smallest of risks, shutting down specialty wings, preferring to invest an extra $100m in their summer tentpole than to use any of that cash to support a few smaller, more adventurous pictures, one or two of which might perform in surprising ways. Even Spielberg and Lucas look like Rembrandt and Vemeer next to the current generation of Hollywood 'talent' and the one or two talented younger directors who do somehow exist (Anderson, Fincher) have to struggle desparately to finance their more interesting projects. Essentially, once the moviebrat generation has died out then that's it folks.

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knives
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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#2 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:57 am

I'd say Nolan isn't struggling not Tony Scott and several others. Hell even your own example of Fincher isn't struggling with the biggest concession he has had to make in over a decade being adapting something he had no interest in to adapt something he did which is a trick as old as theater.

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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#3 Post by Nothing » Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:09 am

Nolan?! I'll pretend you didn't mention that walking hack-merchant... And as much as I liked The Social Nework (a rare cinematic by-product of Sorkin's small screen success), I wait to see how long it is before Fincher can direct a film like Zodiac again. As for Scott, he's a guilty pleasure, but very much the exception to the rule in that his films are pretty much dreadful on every level except (within limitatons) for their mise-en-scene, and even that conforms to the hyper-active pace de jour. There's the limited pleasures of Mann, Tarantino and the Coens too, of course. So, to summarise, you have the remnants of the moviebrats (many of whom - Malick, Coppola, Friedkin, De Palma - have ceased to work for the studios) and then up to 5 fairly decent directors who came to fame in the 80s and early 90s and... that's it.

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knives
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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#4 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:25 am

I just named a few that I like but you have a lot of talented people here mixed with the genuine hacks (of which Nolan clearly isn't a member). While they're at their essence journeymen people like Verbinski, Campbell, and Aja still fit the Curtiz mold of being excellent craftsmen. If you want real strong auteurs only though than I have a few there too. Just last year after all saw the premier of one of Hollywood's most promising mew talents in the form of Derek Cianfrance. An other handful of these '90s kids finally growing into their own are Aronofsky, Baumbach, Wright, Jonze, both Coppola babies, and again many more. This isn't going into people who are on the edges of American cinema and not really part of Hollywood in the sense that these others are like Granik and Bahrani alongside their old guards like Jarmusch and Soderbergh (who also works within Hollywood from time to time). Things only seem worse now because we're living with it.

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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#5 Post by Nothing » Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:29 am

Clearly there are quite a few interesting directors who broke through in the 80s and 90s and migrated from the independent sector into the Hollywood studio and studio specialty divisions - Van Sant, Tarantino, Soderbergh, Mann, Cronenberg, Verhoeven, Jarmusch, the Coens, Aranovsky, P T Anderson, Wes Anderson, Cameron, Jackson, etc. Arguably, most of them aren't as uncompromising or talented as their 60s/70s counterparts, and in any case these are the very specialty divisions that the studios have been closing down over the past three years, with the majority of these directors now either pandering to teenage test audiences and/or looking to Europe for financing.

And over the past decade we've had to make do with the likes of Cianfrance, Reichardt, July, S.Coppola, Wright, Refn and Edwards, most of whom aren't as uncompromising or talented as their 80s/90s counterparts and most of whom (incl. the deeply unimpressive Cianfrance) haven't been within a mile of a studio lot, unless to direct a genre remake and sequel.

In short, the number of directors who can get money out of a Hollywood studio to make an interesting and artistic film can now be counted on the fingers of one hand (and all of them are genre directors, I believe).

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#6 Post by rs98762001 » Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:34 pm

Any time you have to use Derek Cianfrance as the lynchpin of your argument you're in trouble. Blue Valentine's last sequence intercutting the characters' wedding with their break-up would have been rejected by George Lucas for being too obvious and asinine. Overall it wasn't a terrible film, but it made a strong case for the lack of imagination in this generation of filmmakers.

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Tom Hagen
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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#7 Post by Tom Hagen » Fri Jun 17, 2011 2:35 pm

Nothing wrote:(incl. the deeply unimpressive Cianfrance)
He's made one freaking film during the last decade, and (I think) two overall. I was ambivalent to negative on Blue Valentine myself, but come on, this is a bit over the top.

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knives
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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#8 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:34 pm

Nothing wrote:Clearly there are quite a few interesting directors who broke through in the 80s and 90s and migrated from the independent sector into the Hollywood studio and studio specialty divisions - Van Sant, Tarantino, Soderbergh, Mann, Cronenberg, Verhoeven, Jarmusch, the Coens, Aranovsky, P T Anderson, Wes Anderson, Cameron, Jackson, etc. Arguably, most of them aren't as uncompromising or talented as their 60s/70s counterparts, and in any case these are the very specialty divisions that the studios have been closing down over the past three years, with the majority of these directors now either pandering to teenage test audiences and/or looking to Europe for financing.

And over the past decade we've had to make do with the likes of Cianfrance, Reichardt, July, S.Coppola, Wright, Refn and Edwards, most of whom aren't as uncompromising or talented as their 80s/90s counterparts and most of whom (incl. the deeply unimpressive Cianfrance) haven't been within a mile of a studio lot, unless to direct a genre remake and sequel.

In short, the number of directors who can get money out of a Hollywood studio to make an interesting and artistic film can now be counted on the fingers of one hand (and all of them are genre directors, I believe).
Several things. Firstly what's wrong with being a genre director? Some of the most interesting film and directors all over the world have been genre directors. The ability to use a populace medium to make personal statements is what Hollywood cinema at it's best is about. What separates a genre director to whatever other you're applying?

Also what the hell do you mean by uncompromising? What have these modern directors done that is more compromised than their '70s counterparts? To the best of my knowledge they've all had final cut on their films and are being just as adventurous as their previous counterparts just in their own fashion. Explain to me how Scott Pilgrim, Meek's Cutoff, Somewhere, Zodiac, or any of these other films are compromised? Hell, I know you don't like him, but Nolan has twice now been given hundreds of millions of dollars to play in his own sandbox. If that's not artistic and uncompromised freedom then I don't know what is.

Also you seem to be working on some fallacy that producers didn't exist in previous eras. I know you aren't talking about older films, but compared with the '30s and '40s now is a period of absolute freedom. I don't need to give you a history lesson, but even you have to admit that now is not the worst time in the world for artists.

Actually going by that route the way you are arguing could be applied to most any period. At the dawn of the '40s for example one could say so much of the old guard is going either dead or have lost their ability to get their films made uncompromised. Nobody is financing poor von Sternberg for example and Chaplin has been run out of the country. ford is finally doing some good things, but god is he uneven and is one of those genre directors. Not serious at all. Same goes for Dieterle who seems content making those various sort of crime and horror pictures. I suppose occasionally he works seriously, but not often enough. The cinema is just filled with people like Joesph Lewis and Arthur Lubin. It's not like the good old days of the silent era where a director could be uncompromised in his vision. Today is just terrible with the majority of these directors now either pandering to teenage test audiences and/or looking to Europe for financing.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#9 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:37 pm

Actually, if you ever read James Agee's film criticism, he makes that specific argument (albeit not with exactly those examples) more than once. O Tempora!

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#10 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:41 pm

That's great, I respect Agee, but that sort of criticism is purely romantic nonsense. The bad of the present is just more apparent to you because it's shoved in your face. Back in the day they even had dozens of Seltzerberg analogs. Maybe Nothing needs to watch Midnight in Paris. Tackles this exact problem with typical Allen wit.

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Re: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

#11 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:11 am

knives wrote:Firstly what's wrong with being a genre director?
Nothing inherently. But the point is that Hollywood will only let these people direct genre projects, and usually inane remakes/sequels (eg. Refn remaking Logan's Run, Edwards rebooting Gozilla). Straight drama is now viewed as incredibly risky, precisely the reason, I would presume, that your beloved Cianfrance hasn't been welcomed into the fold.
knives wrote:Also what the hell do you mean by uncompromising? What have these modern directors done that is more compromised than their '70s counterparts?... Explain to me how Scott Pilgrim, Meek's Cutoff, Somewhere, Zodiac, or any of these other films are compromised?
Meek's Cutoff is uncompromising, of course, but Kelly is the very opposite of a Hollywood director, she's based on the East Coast, works as a film lecturer to pay her bills, doesn't have an agent and won't even take offers from studios. Think hard about the reasons for that... Zodiac was fairly uncompromising, and unusual, but I doubt Fincher will be making another film like that any time soon, certainly not for a studio. Scott Pilgrim is fanboy nonsense and Sofia Coppola's films are inane rom-coms at heart (even a fan could hardly compare them to Apocalypse Now or The Godfather, or even The Rainmaker for that matter!)
knives wrote:Also you seem to be working on some fallacy that producers didn't exist in previous eras.
The difference, if you actually talk to people who have had direct dealings with the studios throughout this period (would love to set Abel Ferrara on your ass...), is that (as I said) the modern studio execs don't come from a film background, they really have zero to no interest in the artistic side of filmmaking, I'm not even sure they believe such a thing exists, instead it is about repeating formulas, maximising profits and making the least risky choices 100% of the time. Which is not to say that commercial concerns have not always been important in Hollywood, ever since Thalberg cut Greed to ribbons, if not before - the difference being that, today, they wouldn't let Von Stroheim direct a film in the first place. I mean, you know you're in trouble when the afforementioned Rainmaker and something like Zemekis' Cast Away start to look like uncompromising masterpieces from a bygone era in comparison... Oh and, imho, Hollywood cinema was extremely weak throughout the 1940s, so I really don't see that as a useful argument...

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#12 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 4:09 am

I haven't been talking about financing though, just the quality of the film makers. I clearly have no expertise there and don't claim to be. My issues with your statements is in saying that the Hollywood (in regards to the talent present) of today is somehow inferior to that of yesteryear. In that regard you haven't said anything to prove me wrong. Also if you can't appreciate W.S. Van Dyke or any of the other many great film makers of '40s Hollywood than we really don't have anything in common.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#13 Post by Nothing » Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:32 am

By Hollywood I'm referring specifically to the Hollywood majors. Of course there are still talented American filmmakers around, but, for example, to call Kelly Reichardt a Hollywood filmmaker is ridiculous and actually quite an insult, given that she lost 12 years of her career trying to play the Hollywood game, finally dug herself out of the hole with a small self-financed indy and has since sworn never to go down that road again (not to mention physically living over 2,000 miles away). And of course she's one of the luckier ones!

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#14 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:16 pm

I used her as a toss off reference. You're avoiding the other examples I've used like Fincher, the Coppolas, and Brad Bird amongst others. Those major players are giving their uncompromised artistic visions even if you might be dismissive of those visions.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#15 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:45 pm

knives wrote:I used her as a toss off reference. You're avoiding the other examples I've used like Fincher, the Coppolas, and Brad Bird amongst others.
Nothing has referred to Fincher and both Coppolas more than once in this thread alone. And this is the first time anyone has mentioned Brad Bird in this discussion, either by name or by reference to his films.

And if Bird is the best example of an uncompromising visionary artist that you can come up with, you're proving Nothing's thesis for him. Not that I have anything against the hugely enjoyable The Incredibles or Ratatouille (on which he was a last-minute replacement), but Antonioni he ain't.

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#16 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:53 pm

He's not supposed to be Antonioni though. He's a director using the Hollywood mode to present an uncompromised and often times fascinating artistic vision (and to be honest I think he's a better director than Antonioni, but that's besides the point). Also in reference to the other two he just dismissed Coppola as a director of romances which firstly is not true (only maybe Lost in Translation could count as such) and also speaks nothing to their artistic quality. With Fincher he's acting as if Zodiac is the only uncompromised film that he's ever done ignoring the fact that he's been given numerous risky jobs in the past and continues to be allowed to do basically whatever he feels like. My statement (which I now recognize as vague or even misleading) refers to him talking about financing and Reichardt which has nothing to do with the topic.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#17 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:57 pm

When has an uncompromised Antonioni ever been able to work in Hollywood? The whole impetus for auteur theory was finding the personal artistry in a environment that has always been known for being primarily about compromise, box office, and risk evasion- even in the fabled seventies, there were probably ten Every Which Way But Looses for every McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

I think dismissing Nolan is hugely missing the point- regardless of how much or how little you like him, Nolan is someone who has been able to do movies that were important to him and did not seem like a box office cinch with enormous, Hollywood sized budgets. It's true that such figures are few and far between, but I think the situation is largely the same as ever, viz that the only people who can get a movie that doesn't have obvious box office/commercial appeal made are the big stars and big name directors- so the Coens get to keep doing as they please because name actors all want to work them, and Nolan gets to make the movies he wants because the Dark Knight was a huge moneymaker and they need a sequel. Sam Raimi's in a similar position, and Guillermo del Toro has gone from the deeply flawed and impersonal Mimic to Hellboy 2, which may be a comic book movie, but is also clearly dear to him.

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of crap that comes out of Hollywood, but there's always been a flood of crap. We just don't remember most of it.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#18 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:17 pm

knives wrote:He's a director using the Hollywood mode to present an uncompromised and often times fascinating artistic vision
He did a perfectly decent job on The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, and his name as director is a pretty reliable indicator that I'm going to have a good time (which is not a quality to be sniffed at), but although I've seen all three films many, many times (I have kids), not once have I thought "blimey, this guy's presenting an uncompromised and oftentimes fascinating artistic vision". In fact, I'd forgotten that Bird directed Ratatouille until I looked it up just now, and that's not a mistake I'd have made with, say, Hayao Miyazaki or Michel Ocelot.

In any case, I think Pixar (which produced two of those films) is the exception to the general rule being argued here. Or rather, they seem to function much more like an old Hollywood studio in that the people right up to executive level (i.e. John Lasseter) actually do care about the quality of the product that they're making on an artistic as well as a commercial basis - which is largely thanks to an amazing commercial track record plus initial financial backing from people outside the film industry (such as Steve Jobs). But they're creative collaborations, not films d'auteur - could you really tell the difference between films "by" John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich or Brad Bird if you hadn't been tipped off in advance?
(and to be honest I think he's a better director than Antonioni, but that's besides the point).
It's not at all "beside the point" - if you can actually substantiate that thesis in a sufficiently persuasive way, this thread might get genuinely interesting.

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#19 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:22 pm

Pixar in general fits the Disney studio auteur mold, but Bird is clearly separate from the rest of them with a different set of values, writing style amongst many other things. He has a clear visual and story style that isn't to be whiffed at. While he's still young in his career I would put him up to the level of Miyazaki (at least in a couple of years) though his career trajectory seems to be mimicking Tashlin more than anyone else considering the jump into live action.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#20 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:30 pm

But if he's already better than Antonioni, who knows what creative peaks he could scale?

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#21 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:34 pm

You're right. While he's clearly a dramatic film maker I think the Tashlin comparison is apt and who knows, maybe he will make something as good as Susan Slept Here someday. I doubt he'll get up to Borzage levels though.

As an aside while they actually tow to house style much more than Bird ever bothered with the other Pixar directors are just as distinct from each other as the old Disney or Merry Melody directors were.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#22 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:54 pm

knives wrote:You're right. While he's clearly a dramatic film maker I think the Tashlin comparison is apt and who knows, maybe he will make something as good as Susan Slept Here someday. I doubt he'll get up to Borzage levels though.
So I make that Mizoguchi ("a no-talent")<Antonioni<Bird<Miyazaki<Tashlin<Borzage.

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#23 Post by knives » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:56 pm

It's more like
Mizoguchi ("a no-talent")<Antonioni<Bird<Miyazaki <or=Tashlin<Borzage.

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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#24 Post by Nothing » Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:08 am

knives wrote:Those major players are giving their uncompromised artistic visions even if you might be dismissive of those visions.
So is Roland Emmerich, at least in theory. But I would argue that this work IS compromised before it even hits the page if the writer-director is playing the Hollywood game of appealing to the lowest common denominator, doing multiple script re-writes, editing according to the responses of test audiences, etc - ie. giving the executives what they want. And yes, I'm well aware of the origins of auteur theory, but also find it fairly irrelevent post-1960s, when it was shown than unfettered artistic freedom could be allowed in through the door and yet profits could still be made. Also, because the modern studios are far more savvy and sensitive to personal artistic expression than their 40s counterparts - they see it as an evil weed to be rooted out and destroyed, and succeed at this task most effectively.

Alright, to take a slightly softer line, one might concede that there is still a place in Hollywood for artistic directors with an incredibly commercial sensibility - the Speilbergs, the Lucases of the present (eg. Bird, Jackson, Nolan, etc - although, actually, none of these guys are even as talented as Spielberg or Lucas, but let's save that for another day...). However, the Malicks, the Lynches, the Antonionis (schmatrix: ummm.... Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger?!!) and, yes, the Coppolas (of the Francis Ford kind) are left out in the cold. Thus, to say that 'nothing has changed' (the original statement I was contesting) is patently incorrect.
knives wrote:he just dismissed Coppola as a director of romances which firstly is not true (only maybe Lost in Translation could count as such) and also speaks nothing to their artistic quality. With Fincher he's acting as if Zodiac is the only uncompromised film that he's ever done ignoring the fact that he's been given numerous risky jobs in the past and continues to be allowed to do basically whatever he feels like. My statement (which I now recognize as vague or even misleading) refers to him talking about financing and Reichardt which has nothing to do with the topic.
Firstly, S.Coppola is Hollywood royalty and, as such, is something of an exception (they may not want to finance his pictures anymore, but Coppola Senior remains someone to be kept broadly on side!). Secondly, Lost in Translation was a huge commercial hit and that buys a lot of leeway, at least for a time. Thirdly, if she carries on making films like Somewhere then she won't be working with Focus for much longer... What you have to take on board is that the fortunes of and attitudes towards specialty-type films had been going steadily downhill for the past twenty years and the financial crisis was pretty much the final nail in the coffin. Focus, who have slashed their output by more than half, are now one of the last studio speciality devisions out there and if you think S.Coppola and Jarmusch could get greenlights for films like Somewhere and The Limits of Control in 2011 or beyond then you're very much mistaken. Similarly Zodiac - to all intents and purposes it is a film from another era, so there's really no point in talking about it. And to then say that financing has 'nothing to do with the topic' is so bizarre that I don't even know how to respond to that one...
knives wrote:to be honest I think [Brad Bird is] a better director than Antonioni
AND.... I think we should end it right there :-s

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knives
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Re: Hollywood Hackery

#25 Post by knives » Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:20 am

Nothing wrote:Focus, who have slashed their output by more than half, are now one of the last studio speciality devisions out there and if you think S.Coppola and Jarmusch could get greenlights for films like Somewhere and The Limits of Control in 2011 or beyond then you're very much mistaken. Similarly Zodiac - to all intents and purposes it is a film from another era, so there's really no point in talking about it. And to then say that financing has 'nothing to do with the topic' is so bizarre that I don't even know how to respond to that one...
Searchlight is a studio specialty division that's doing very well for itself so it's not like Focus is alone. Though I'll admit they don't produce as high a percentage of their own output as Focus. Also how the hell is Zodiac of an other era? If you are referring only to how the landscape has changed in the past year or two, well than you are giving me nothing to work with as there is no hindsight available. Even than though he's made two projects entirely the way he wants. I don't see why you are emphasizing lack of commercial ability so much. If a film is successful by it's own merits does it really matter how experimental it is? There are dozens of plain or commercial directors who have done great work and even experimented with the form without alienation. the way that Bergman made a film is no better or worse than how Borzage made his. Either way the artistic expression existed and was vibrant, but considering how you dismiss anyone who enjoys genre work it should come as no surprise to me that you dislike films just for daring to be commercial.
Nothing wrote:
knives wrote:to be honest I think [Brad Bird is] a better director than Antonioni
AND.... I think we should end it right there :-s
Permanently I hope.

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