EVAN: Human beings and animals that have somehow taught themselves how to read English, welcome to another E>. This week Gordon and I have come off of a mini-hiatus, and as a result are just a tad rusty.
As a result we will be discussing the very broad topic of movies, devoting a portion of our time to each one. Gordon is going to be starting us off with . . .
GORDON: The big screen experience.
If you’ve been to theaters recently (no, Evan, it is NOT spelled “theatre”), you may have noticed a series of ads harping on how “some things just weren’t meant for a small screen.”
“Spectacle” is the term for it. How much is it integral to movies and the movie-going experience? Do we really lose anything by watching a movie on our TVs rather than in front of the big screen?
EVAN: I’m going to have to side with these people who are hawking what you dubbed “spectacle.” The big screen is, by and large, the medium that directors are using to show their creations. In other words, a theatre is the intended setting.
This isn’t as important for me when it comes to, say, comedies, but I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have enjoyed Avatar as much [to be fair, a pretty subpar film plotwise] if I had watched it on a TV or laptop. To veer away from visuals, really high quality surround sound can be really great for musicals or certain action scenes, etc.
So it’s not always necessary, but for the most part if I really want to watch a movie I will do so while it’s in theatres instead of waiting around.
GORDON: My immediate question is how often exactly spectacle plays a part in the movie experience. I mean, I’ll fully acknowledge some movies have a massive investment in their graphics and scope- Avatar being a prime example- but of every movie in a given year, I’m struggling to count on more than one hand the number of flicks that’d be truly losing something with the size.
I mean, let’s talk about this year.
Granted, we haven’t hit Oscar season yet- but how many dramas need spectacle? How many thrillers? Horror flicks? Even action flicks don’t seem wholly reliant on spectacle, y’know?
EVAN: “even action flicks”
That’s just about where you lost me.
If anything big budget blockbuster action movies continue to rely more and more on spectacle, and it translates really, really well to the big screen. Even horror movies I can sort of let slide in spite of the ramped up intensity due to your field of vision being taken up by the screen and the surround sound, but not action movies.
GORDON: Wholly reliant. Key phrasing. But even the whole genre aside, that’s what percentage of movies in a given year need to be seen on the big screen?
EVAN: Need to? Not including action movies, which really is a sizable chunk, we’ve got Life of Pi and Les Misérables for films that’ve already come out, and Gravity moving forward that would definitely pale in comparison on a smaller screen. Ender’s Game, as well.
All that being said, maybe 10% are movies that I’d say absolutely need to be seen in a theatre.
GORDON: Huh- you went for a far smaller percentage than I expected.
But that said, you did bring up a really good point- that for filmmakers, the cinema is the intended medium for their story.
Even so, movie tickets aren’t exactly cheap- even though it’d be cool to see every movie on the big screen, we can only see movies so often. Which isn’t very often at all, considering the financial situation of the key 18-29 year old demographic.
EVAN: It kind of goes that way for everything though, doesn’t it? Things like outside entertainment and outside food and alcohol in general costs money, and we’ve gotta allocate what extra funds that we have where they would go.
GORDON: Which brings us to the issue of risk.
You don’t hear about it so much in terms of movies, but I was reading an article not so long ago discussing how prior to iTunes, buying music was way more of a risk- you didn’t have much of a way of knowing if the album you were buying way any good.
Same line of logic would apply to movies- even with trailers available everywhere, whether or not a movie is gonna be worth the $15.50 you pay to see is a pretty up in the air.
Again, we’re not exactly in a position to be chucking our cash around. And of course, this affects smaller movies as well
EVAN: $15.50? Sheez, is that how much movies are in the States? That’s like IMAX prices here.
GORDON: Depends on when you see it, but yeah.
EVAN: So your issue is how the cost of movie tickets affects indie films, basically.
GORDON: “Indie films” connotes old french villagers doing nothing for 7 hours of screen-time. I’d say this affects any movie not designed to be a blockbuster.
EVAN: Well, one of the good things about being a smaller film is that you’re not throwing tons of money into advertising like the bigger guys do. That being said, I still think you have to double your budget to be profitable, instead of the three when you’re one of the bigger movies.
GORDON: I’d say that a smaller film not getting much advertising kinda kills it. At least, it’s very limiting in terms of budget.
With prices as they are (granted $17.50 is a bit of an exaggeration, but still)- most movies which don’t get that degree of money are totally screwed. If we have to sacrifice spectacle for cheaper prices across the board, I imagine it’d be better for everyone.
EVAN: Here’s the thing, cheaper prices doesn’t hurt studios, it hurts the theatres that put on the films to begin with. The first few days of a movie they make next to nothing, with such a big cut going back to the studios. That’s why concessions cost you an arm and a leg.
If you lower ticket prices you’re effectively bankrupting these places. If you want to lower the cut going back to the studios then they can’t turn a profit and can’t make the sort of big budget films we’ve gotten so used to.
GORDON: Seems like we’re caught between a rock and a jaguar pit.
EVAN: Speaking of jaguar pits and other topics I want do discuss, here’s another: how many sequels is too many?
We’re going to eliminate films based on book series from this conversation, because they of course have a set number. Though of course feel free to comment on how a number of books are being split into several films [I’m looking at you, The Hobbit].
GORDON: It’s a tough question- we don’t typically see movies go past trilogies.
The Rambo franchise springs to mind, though I haven’t seen Rambo III and Rambo IV, which brings light to a very, very important subject, really wasn’t a great movie.
I want to say a movie can be perpetuated so long as the product is (1) inherently good and (2) true to the previous films, but that might be just unreasonable. I’d be willing to entertain the idea that there’s a cut-off point for movies carrying on a story.
EVAN: Ooh, stipulations. I like that.
If we want to look at movies continue to go on ad nauseum I’d like to point to the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises when it comes to horror. Elsewhere we have the Fast and Furious movies.
On some level I’d like to say that the latter are true to the films while evolving in their own sort of way. Whether or not they’re inherently good is a discussion we have had before. Our answer was that no, they are not.
GORDON: I’m really glad I added that caveat.
EVAN: But really, though, do you think that movies can really go on forever provided that, on some level, they’re inherently good [a subjective issue, of course]?
Imagine a Terminator movie ever other year. For decades.
EVAN: The Forgotten Realms books following that one guy with the hard-to-pronounce name [Drizzt Do’Urden, if you were wondering] have been going on since I was pretty young, and to my knowledge they haven’t stopped [could of course be wrong].
Is it just in films where a perpetual continuation robs future works of their inherent worth?
GORDON: I’d argue that D&D fan-fiction/officially sanctioned lore isn’t inherently good, but we’ve been down this path before.
EVAN: To ask one more question before our time wraps up, does a story need a definitive ending for it to be good? I guess that’s what this really boils down to.
GORDON: I’m gonna ask you to define “definitive ending.”
EVAN: Well, an end point in general. As far as we know the Fast and Furious franchise will continue on until Vin Diesel finally dies, because we all know that being confined to a wheelchair wouldn’t stop that vehicle.
Is a story that has no discernible endpoint in sight always a bad story?
GORDON: I’m not going to say “yes”, because I think a decent (and lucky) writer can make stuff up as he goes along, but I’d say a lack of any kind of conclusion or resolution is indicative of a bad story.
But then again- Bond.
EVAN: That of course rides on the assumption and excessively popular fan theory that every one of those films is connected and takes place in the same world.
But that’s for another time, because right now ours is all up!