Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Who says original filmmaking is dead? A glance at the Fall Movie Season to come...

When we pundits and critics wring our hands about the death of original cinema, we are frankly talking mostly about the big-budget tent-poles and/or genre films that are released by major studios.  In truth, there are plenty of films that qualify as original that are released year-round.  We obsess on the remakes and reboots because they generally fall in the film-nerd-friendly genres that we obsess over.  But there are plenty of original films out there for those who want to obsess on more than just the comic book adaptations, the animated films, and the sci-fi and horror genres.  Of the 98 films coming out between September and December (according to this week's Entertainment Weekly 'Fall Movie Preview'), only eighteen would theoretically qualify as a sequel, a remake, franchise revamp, or spin-off of a known property.  They are -

In September, we have just the re-release of The Lion King in 3D, plus the Rod Lurie remake of Straw Dogs.  In October, we have a Footloose remake, a prequel to The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3, a 3D-revamp of The Three Musketeers, and Johnny English Reborn.  As we get into the holiday season, November brings us the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, Happy Feet Two, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I, The Muppets, and Piranha 3DD.  Finally, December brings us New Year's Eve (technically a spin-off to last year's Valentine's Day), Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, David Fincher's remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.  Assuming I didn't miss anything, that's one re-release, one prequel, two spin-offs, two franchise revamps, three remakes, and nine sequels.  That gives us just 18% of the film releases during the last third of the year that don't qualify as at least somewhat original (by which we mean either completely original or adapted from a book, a play, or some other medium).

So, in the eighteen weeks from September to December, there are an eye-popping 5.4 films being released each week.  So if you only go by averages, there are four 'original films' you could seek out in theaters for every one not-so original property that is released on any given week.  Yes, some of these original films are potentially junky fare (Shark Night 3D, Real Steal, Immortals, etc), but there are plenty of what pundits and/or snobs would call 'nourishing' films being released.  You've got Moneyball, The Ides of March, The Skin I Live In, J. Edgar, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, We Need to Talk About Kevin, We Bought A Zoo, and War Horse among 73 others.  Point being, if you can't find an original, intelligent, adult-themed drama/comedy/etc this holiday season, then the fault (my dear Brutus) lies not in the stars, but within yourself.

Scott Mendelson


Nick said...

do you consider adaptations (of books, plays, real life, etc.) as "original films"? Because every film you listed was an adaptation of some kind (War Horse=play and book, Tinker Tailor = book and tv series, J Edgar = biopic [which i guess is a stretch, but kind of an adaptation], The Ides of March = a play [different title though], The Skin I Live In = loosely based on a book, We Need to Talk about Kevin = a book, Moneyball = based on a true story [once again, kind of an adaptation], We Bought A Zoo = based on a memoir)

Nick said...

or at least, every one of the "nourishing" films.

Tom Clift said...

I completely agree that there's a good looking, original cinema still be produced for discerning cinephiles to seek out. But it's still a pain that so many tentpole blockbusters are so uncreative. It feels like a long time since we've seen a really excellent ACTION film that isn't a sequel, reboot, comic book adaptation, etc (that said, there have been quite a few good to great UNORIGINAL films this year (Kung Fu Panda 2, Thor and reportedly Fast and Furious 5), so perhaps it's not as bad as we make it out to be).

Scott Mendelson said...

Original = "by which we mean either completely original or adapted from a book, a play, or some other medium" It may be an arbitrary definition, but it suits the needs of this essay. I admit ignorance about the previous Alec Guinness BBC Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy mini-series (didn't realize it had been done before), so you've arguably got me on that one.

Nick said...

Ah I see, thanks. It was just strange to me, cuz there are a lot of films coming out that look great (or have great early buzz) and are completely original concepts written just for the screen that could've been highlighted. Films like Contagion, Warrior (heard some great buzz on that one), Young Adult, 50/50, and many others that probably won't get a wide release (Melancholia, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Artist). But then again, adaptations have always been an integral part of film (I was going to put Drive on that list I just gave, but then realized that it was also a novel), and I cannot deny that I'm looking forward to just about every film you highlighted (and Carnage is another adaptation that just looks amazing). Thanks for the clarification, keep up the great work.


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