Morpheus on… The Five Percent

This writer has just watched Woody Allen’s latest (major) outing – on HBO Asia.

It was called “Magic In The Moonlight” and it was pleasing to see Allen had moved on from making movies where – him now being nearly eighty – a young guy would spout dialogue that made him look like he was doing a second-rate impression of him.

No, while written and directed by Allen, this starred Colin Firth – who could not imitate Allen if his life depended on it – but then, he was not called upon to do so.

Instead… well, your humble scribe is not about to spoil one of Woody’s best films for years by describing it any further. He will just recommend it and leave it at that.

This piece is about something else – the titular five percent.

The fact is, these days around fifty percent of all Hollywood films are bubblegum movies – most derived from comic-books – made exclusively for kids.

While another thirty percent are solely of interest to self-absorbed, paranoid drama queen Americans and do not resonate with ANYONE in what they term the “foreign” market.

And yet another fifteen percent are “worthy” films which studio execs know they will probably lose money on, but which they hope will garner enough Oscars™ to allow them to retain a little of their self-respect.

Which – for NOW – leaves just five percent of the their annual fare for GROWN-UPS.

Now “Magic In The Moonlight” is an Anglo-French production and features British actors with an American female star (Emma Stone – who is less than half Colin’s age – but then, this IS a Woody Allen movie) and so is not even a Hollywood production.

Nevertheless, films like it ARE still being made in Hollywood – but SPARINGLY, now that most of its talented writers have migrated to TV (or, like Woody, are geriatric).

A couple of years ago, there was thought to be hope; now that Baby-Boomers were retiring, maybe they would revive cinema-going – and movies – for mature people.

But predictably, the producers got it wrong. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a good movie (now with a sequel). However Boomers do not want unlimited films of this kind. Casts of plucky oldsters merely serve to remind them that THEY are old.

Far better to feature actors with a little hair on them in dynamic, engaging rôles which entertain. Male Boomers can just about identify with fifty-somethings – and female Boomers, with forty-somethings. “That COULD be me…”

And the films do not have to be actioners, like the “Expendables” franchise – just films that are ABOUT something.

But it is too late now.

All of this historian’s life, TV technology has lagged FAR behind that of the cinema. In 1960, “Spartacus” was released in 70mm (wide-screen, high-definition colour) with big, 6-channel stereo sound. If it had been shown on TV in those days, it would have been on a 405-line (US; 525-line) 4:3-ratio, black-and-white, 5W mono, 19-inch CRT.

Whereas now, home-loving movie fans can watch it on a high-def 16:9, 250W Dolby 5.1 (6-channel stereo, but arranged differently) 70-inch flat-screen, all of which costs less than a couple of grand – and is thus within the financial reach of most Boomers.

Hell, even POOR Boomers can afford a 50-inch.

Furthermore, with an HDD, they can watch the movie when THEY want to, pause it to take a pee (it IS over 3 hours long) eat their own food (WAY cheaper than cinema snacks) sit in their underwear (NAKED if they wish) and talk, smoke and fart at will.

And if the restored bathtub scene turns them on… well, you get the point.

The thing is, these days the only point of schlepping to a cinema to see a movie is if you cannot WAIT to watch it on your TV a mere twelve months later – and the vast majority of grown-ups CAN.

But for movie-makers, TV – and even DVDs – will NOT pay for anything LIKE the budget of a theatrical movie.

“Magic In The Moonlight” was an anomaly. Costing just seventeen million bucks to make (they got a huge tax credit from the French, a lot of help from the rich locals on the Côte d’Azur and the cast were more than happy to work CHEAP on what might have been Woody’s last film; it was not and he is currently slated to do a TV series for Amazon) – it JUST scraped a profit.

But as a rule, a film needs to get into ALL the cineplexes in America to have a HOPE of paying for itself. Which is fine with KIDS’ movies. However, if a movie is made for grown-ups – while they stay at HOME to watch them, this will not happen.

All of which means that if YOU are a grown-up, you have now LOST… The Movies.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cy Quick on August 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I figure that we have come to an end of the go-out versus stay-home cinema versus television or home-computer war. They each have their place. I only go to a movie if the report in the local newspaper, Bournemouth Daily Echo, leads me to suspect that I will find it worthy. This does not mean the critic has to like it. The critic might hate it and I might hate the critic so I end up making an effort to see the movie.

    In the 1950s when Sputnik 1 had launched the space age I was disappointed by the lack of true ‘Space’ genre movies. It was all silly monster tripe. Then came Star Trek on TV and Star Wars at the cinema. I have my own space movie idea but I have discovered that to make it it happen involves intense and prolonged hard work. The cosmos thinks it can kid me into doing hard work eh? Not a chance!

  2. Posted by Vincent on August 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I’m surprised you like the Trek AND Star Wars. They are totally different. I could LIST said differences – but I’ll use the CLASSIC definition: Star Trek fans want to bonk an alien woman – while Star WARS fans want to bonk ANY woman!

    Or man.

  3. Posted by Cy Quick on August 11, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I have long been bewildered by the petty clash betwixt SOME Trek and Wars fans (who are unworthy of the SF genre) whilst I like both.

    The two sagas tell the same story of decent guys and girls battling rotten rat-bags. Trek is in the near future and almost exclusively here at home in Milky Way galaxy. Wars is in the distant past and in a galaxy far, far away. Otherwise, same game.

    I admit that Wars episodes tend to end up with weddings to please the lady fans, but the writers have the decency to put this at the end.

  4. Posted by Vincent on August 15, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Whilst I loved the (THEN)-state-of-the-art OPTICAL effects sequences in the original Star Wars movies (which I got to see in 70mm) the plots and characters BORED me. Essentially a throwback to the Saturday Morning pictures, they were for KIDS.

    Star TREK, on the other hand, was story-telling for GROWN-UPS. Using metaphor, they explored ISSUES – and used the format to visit every genre that existed; drama, romance, pure sci-fi, action – even COMEDY.

    There is NO COMPARISON between the two franchises.

    Of course, today Star Trek is FINISHED – having been relegated to KIDS’ FARE – like almost ALL of Hollywood’s current output.

  5. Posted by Cy Quick on August 16, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Thinking back, I DID see a child-like quality when I first saw Wars but I was so starved of SF at the time that I was not about to complain. I have continued to overlook the matter and look for the best in Wars. I have never analysed closely my relative feelings for the two franchises (as you call them) before this minute. I can say without hesitation that I never liked the character Captain Kirk or the actor William Shatner of the first Trek series. Again, however, I deliberately overlooked the matter.

  6. Posted by Vincent on August 16, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Being America – they HAD to have a Captain Kirk. However, in Trek, the characters are less important than the STORIES. Roddenberry stole Serling’s idea – rotating story genres, to please as many folk as much of the time as possible (pure sci-fi is ratings death) – but applied to a series with the same format. But within it, he and his writers covered all genres – even comedy (think “Mudd’s Women”).

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