CYNAMATIC: Everything New is Old Again

Cynamatic is back! Take a look at Christopher Monfette highly acclaimed column.
BYBrian B. | August 24th, 2005

A quick look at the release calendar for 2005 reveals the following:

Elektra

Assault on Precinct 13

Phantom of the Opera

Alone in the Dark

Son of the Mask

Be Cool

The Ring Two

Miss Congeniality 2

Sahara

Sin City

The Amityville Horror

XXX: State of the Union

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Guess Who

House of Wax

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

The Longest Yard

Batman Begins

War of the Worlds

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Fantastic Four

Bad News Bears

The Devil's Rejects

Dukes of Hazzard

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

Bewitched

Land of the Dead

The Brothers Grimm

The Constant Gardener

A Sound of Thunder

Transporter 2

Constantine

Everything is Illuminated

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Oliver Twist

The Fog

Doom

Shopgirl

Saw II

The Legend of Zorro

Chicken Little

Rent

Bee Season

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Pride and Prejudice

Aeon Flux

The Chronicles of Narnia

Memoirs of a Geisha

King Kong

All the King's Men

Fun with Dick and Jane

The Producers

This laundry list of films is just a fraction of the releases in 2005 that are either remakes, reimaginings, sequels, follow-ups or adaptations of novels, games, stage-plays or television shows. Some of them are reimaginings-of-video-games-based-off-of-short-stories. Others are adaptations-of-stage-plays-adapated-from-movies. Even more are remakes-of-movies-adapted-from-novels.

"or, put more simply "Movies Based On Other People's Ideas"

Everybody knows that several species of mammal and possibly even some forms of fish can pretty much write a film. And considering that in New York or Los Angeles you're never more than twenty feet from a screenplay, stored in a Starbucks laptop or stashed in a stranger's book-bag, one would have to imagine that at least a few of those scripts are orbiting the mere possibility of decency.

In the year of the oft-reported, much-dreaded Box Office Slump, does anybody really wonder why? Go back for a moment and take a look at the above list. Look long and hard and ask yourself which of these films were actually worth the trouble to make, actually struck you the way that a good film should. Batman Begins? Land of the Dead? Narnia and Kong both seem promising and The Producers will undoubtedly be fun, if nothing else. Shopgirl could be good, considering that the director was just hired to direct the helm of the much-loved His Dark Materials trilogy of novels.

But that simple, cursory glance at the cinematic line-up for 2005, rather than invoking a sense of desire or excitement, instead dredges up that unsettling feeling of déjà vu. A sense that we've seen all of this before. Which, quite frankly, we have.

In a year when moviegoers are tightening their belts financially, cutting down the car trips and avoiding the fine-dining price of popcorn, buying up cheap DVD players and inexpensive surround-sound systems, eyeing that nice, widescreen HDTV set-up, and renting movies for three bucks rather than going to the theatre for ten, do we really want to serve up a large portion of yesterday's menu? Does the cinematic past really present a better future than we can make for ourselves?

Hollywood used to be about imagination, about honest creativity, and for a long while it delivered on that exceptional promise. In fact, it delivered so much and so well that the growing studio system, for all its overhead and back-end, at some point decided that yesterday is the new tomorrow. And so we've begun to recycle the same old dreams, mistaking nostalgia for the spark of genuine imagination.

I don't make a lot of money, folks, and I love movies with a large portion of my artistic heart, but I've gone to the theatres less this year than at any time I can remember. There's too little that makes me want to turn over those few dollars I can spare, and what I long for is a stretch of films with fresh ideas and new stories.

And just as much as it's about money for me, it's about money for Hollywood. There's no risk in the industry anymore, no chance. What we find is the same talent, the same content, turning over and over in a cement mixer of concepts. Out there in the world, I promise you, are a handful of writers you've never heard of, and likely never will, with a screenplay in the trunk of their car, half-scrawled on a notebook in their apartment, and it's good. It's really good. It's new and it's crisp and it's well-written and, with a little industry experience, it's a prime example of what a new writer, given a sliver of opportunity, can accomplish. Because our seasoned writers don't seem to be helping.

If the industry wanted to end the slump and increase revenue it might decide to make fewer and better movies. But this isn't a country about fewer and better anymore, is it? It's a country about too-much and good-enough. Somewhere in that equation is the assurance of moderate profit, rather than the possibility of great reward.

But the real problem is that we began this trend by remaking our successes and somewhere began recycling our mistakes. But then again -- again and again and again -- that's Hollywood for you.

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