June 9th, 2010

coffee LOLcat from icanhascheeseburger

See, here's the thing...

I wasn't LOOKING for anything about the A-Team movie (good GRIEF, why WOULD I?!?) but somewhere in the wilds of the Internet I tripped over this.

Here's how it begins:

Beginning with the sound era, studios and films producers have longed for a way to eliminate the screenwriter from the filmmaking process.

By and large, writers are prickly personalities who absorb too much time, demand too much credit and need to be kept clear of the set, where they might interfere with the director, who is, after all, the real auteur of the film.

With "The A-Team," a Fox film derived from a 1980s TV series, this dream now is a reality. The film seems nearly writer-free. Absolutely no time gets wasted on story, character development or logic. The film lurches from one action sequence to another, with little connection between the scenes.

Sing it, sister.

This - precisely this - is why I fail to connect to so many contemporary visual THINGS. Because story no longer seems to matter much and it's all about who's got the bigger explosions. Size, in Hollywood, at least when it comes to firecrackers, DOES seem to (regrettably) matter.

Even things based on perfectly good stories get twisted and pretzelled into shapes that no longer even resemble their originals - how many times have you gone into a movie that was "based on" some book that you knew and walked out of there swearing that the only thing left of the original story was the title? How often have stories been "fixed" to appeal to the greatest mass of the undiscerning or the lowest common denominator? How many times have audiences been second-guessed by the studios and will have simply been assumed to respond to certain thing according to demographic?

They've done that with things like Avatar (pretty pictures, WHAT story?). They've done it with things like The Last Airbender (the story had people who were, um, less than lily white. Who do we cast...? Well, the lilywhites - the demographic perceived as being the ticket buying public - have been assumed by the producers of the movie to wish to see actors who, if not blue, at the very least look rather similar to themselves...) They've done it to Lord of the Rings, where an epic story that inspired the devotion of millions in its original incarnation was produced in a lavish manner which provided all sorts of pretty background and even prettier people but when it came to sticking to the STORYLINE THAT, oh well, the director had discretion. As I keep asking, why did Arwen steal Glorfindel's horse at the Fords of Bruinen? Just because the director felt that he needed a woman in the frame? And what's with the Faramir storyline? And okay they didn't blow anything up - not in the A-team sense - but they certainly lingered lovingly at the walls of Gondor to the point that you might have thought that the entire reason for that particular movie's existence was, geez, a BATTLE SEQUENCE....

Story, people. Story. If you're using someone else's, you're presumably using it for a reason - don't futz with it more than you can help. If you aren't using someone else's and are doing an original... well... at least pretend to HAVE a story waiting in the wings...

Going back to the original article - the A-team and its ilk have been storylessed because its intended demograpic - the action-movie-going-young-male kind of dempgraphic - appears to have been judged incapable of actually appreciating, never mind understanding, a basic story arc or the merest smidge of a character development within the scope of a two-hour night out, and have been assumed to have walked out satisfied if the movie had fulfilled the requisite minimum number of well-orchestrated blow-ups, car chases, and fisticuffs?

It's, frankly, been a while since I've had a movie LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS. It's been a while since I've HAD expectations.

It might also be the reason that ("Lost" notwithstanding) any TV series with any kind of serious character development or a deeper-than-a-pan-of-dirty-dishwater storyline gets axed after a season or two while soap operas can go on for years (and fans don't even blink when actors are switched mid-arc for some of their favourite characters, because they never really identified with them at all in the first place...) and the stuff that stays on circuit for ever and ever are one of three things: sentimental slush, graphic violence, or a reality show. The stuff that I might have caught a whiff of, saw one episode, analysed it, and predicted the rest of the season in a precis which I could have delivered in less than five minutes (and would not have been wrong). The things that might have some sort of actual substance to it - the things capable of surprising and touching me - things like "Carnival", like "Jericho", like "jack and Bobby" - like "Caprica" (is that coming back?) - like "Cold Case" - like "Judging Amy" - like my beloved "Babylon 5" -the shows with heart, with spirit, with story (WITH WRITERS!) - these shows get axed. No "ratings".

That's because there's a storyless culture out there on the video screen. We're USED to things being blown up in lieu of a storyline.

I'm one of those, um, problematic writers. I can sort of, you know, smell the absence of a story. And it both saddens and annoys me that Hollywood doesn't think this is important.

Aw what the heck. Let's just blow it up. Nobody will care. And the flames looks SO good in Technicolor (tm).