a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Choosing The Movies We Choose To See

So buried in the comments in the post below, which largely center on whether it is racist to have never seen a Tyler Perry movie, is a larger-arcing question -- why do we choose the movies we choose to see?

When I was younger and living in Manhattan, I literally saw 12-20 movies a month in theaters, which pretty much encompassed anything that had any possibility of being good.

Now I'm down to 1-2 a month in theaters, maybe more in the early summer and the end of the year, when there is stuff crying out to be seen. In other words, I've sort of morphed into an approximation of an average filmgoer.

And pretty much my pool of movies I want to see is this:

1) Movies that are supposed to be at least very good, or entertaining, or just plain really funny. But the bar is fairly high here.

2) Movies starring people I like, or from directors I like, or with subject matter than might interest me, or which promise to be funny enough to counter their not being that good, or in which Natalie Portman is naked. In all of these instances, the bar is lower -- I might go see a mediocre (or worse) example of one of these films.

When it comes to Tyler Perry movies, it isn't a matter of race. It's a matter of their not being good enough to break into category #1 (so far) and because he hasn't made a movie that really hits my #2 yet.

Not because it's full of black people, but because of the subject matter. I'm not big on wacky movies about men dressed up as women (Tyler Perry's usual m.o.), unless they are great. The current WHY DID I GET MARRIED? is about couples getting together to talk about their marital problems. Cast this with white people, and it would probably be horrific -- hell, I'm more likely to see it with the current cast.

The problem with Hollywood is that they know about the #1 and #2 thing, and I think too often they see #1 as elusive -- they won't want to count on their movie being great, or even very good. So that's why they fill their movies up with stars, or remake TV shows or movies that people are familiar with, or go for the big spectacle stuff, because they are trying to hit as many people's #2 as they can. Unfortunately, again, in this category, films don't need to be great to make money.

The day that audiences just stick with #1 -- only seeing movies that are great, or at least very good -- is the day Hollywood will change the way they do business. But it'll never happen.


Weekend autopsy:

Give WHY DID I GET MARRIED? credit though; it made $21.3 million over the weekend, to get first place in a runaway. Though the reviews (when they finally came; they didn't screen the film for critics) make it clear that this isn't the Perry film that is going to make many people's #1 category.

THE GAME PLAN did $11 million to take second; it's another #2 category type hit. People will see mediocre if it brings enough funny.

Despite good reviews, WE OWN THE NIGHT and MICHAEL CLAYTON each did between $10 and $11 million; again, quality isn't everything. Sadly.

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE opened with a disappointing $6.1 million. THE FINAL SEASON did a horrific $664,000 in over 1000 theaters.

In limited release, SLEUTH didn't do very well. I'm not sure why not.


At 11:15 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

I did follow up on my comment to your last post and saw the Tyler Perry movie last night. True, it's not a great film, but it was a lot more engaging and interesting than a lot of recent rom com Hwood schlock I've sat through in recent years. And, I'm betting it's a lot better than his earlier films feature that Madea character, films I've never wanted to see when gazing at the poster. I deal with enough men in drag in my day-to-day life in SF, I don't need to pay for it.

After having actually seen the film, I have some insight into what makes his stuff tick. I agree, I can't see you, Scott Mullen, sitting through a film feature featuring 4 WHITE couples discussing their marriages. I don't think the subject matter/genre is your cup of tea at all. But I'm someone who would sit through the white version of this (and have, it was called Husbands and Wives by Woody Allen) and I can tell you - the movie was actually good. It had something in it that a lot of films don't and that's what's bringing in the audience.

I have something half-written on the subject that I'll finish tonight and post.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

I'd say the guy has some personal problems. I've never seen any of TP's movies either.
Perhaps I may see this new one but hey the last movie I went to see was Revenge of the Sith.
I just don't have the time with having a full-time job and trying to write scripts.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous shaking head said...

the whole issue seems silly to me.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous bianca said...

"In limited release, SLEUTH didn't do very well. I'm not sure why not."

Um, because Jude Law plays the same character over and over again.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous yvonnjanae said...

I'm glad this Tyler Perry movie has got people at least questioning the reasons why they see what they see. But I honestly believe the truth is that most white Americans still don't relate to black people all that well. I've heard some very caustic remarks about the Madea character in the past few days -- by people who have never seen her in any movie. The reason Perry's character is such a hit is because in the Black American experience, everyone knows someone like her. She is not degrading, though you might not want her at your formal dinner party. You save Aunt Madea for the family get-togethers. Tyler is still a very new filmmaker. His movies will get better, in all likelihood.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Scott, you're being WAY to defensive about ANY issue concerning Tyler Perry and his movies. Since when has one off-the-wall comment from peanut gallery been able to unsettle a colossus such as yourself?

Am SHOCKED to read that you would lower the bar IF the movie had NATALIE PORTMAN NAKED IN IT!!! Never took you for a "Portman" guy. She looks so young. Thinking of her THAT way makes me feel dirty, like I'm cruising the elementary school -- looking for chicks!

The more I write and am exposed to fellow creatives the more willing I am to bend my tastes just to see the work of someone I admire. Like if I read an article about a writer, director, or an actor, and they discuss craft and why they do what they do I feel an odd kinship with them, and I'm LESS apt to lob criticism their way.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So when does the "Naked Natalie Portman" movie come out?!?

I think I'll like it more than a "black" or "chinese" movie!

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

EC - If Natalie was nekkid in a flick on a screen in front of you, you'd be gawking, c'mon. You simply can't be that wholesome. She's grown up, dude. She might not be your type (I can't even fathom that possibility - she is RED HOT) but no need to feel dirty.

Also, if we did have white folks talking marital problems, well, then we'd have Tell Me You Love Me, which is a VERY BORING & EXTRMEMELY ANNOYING HBO drama. bunch of whiners on that show.

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

To address the question Scott posed in his post, I pick movies based on who the director is and reviews. I can't remember the last time I bothered watching a movie made by someone I'd never heard of, who had picked up fair to bad reviews.

I'm probably a minority in this particular selection criteria. Most moviegoers seem lured in by a combination of the marketing and which recognizable actors are in the movie. This can be the only explanation for the success of something like Alien Vs. Predator.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, I'd say AvP was a sucess solely based on the fact that it combined two of Sci-fi's greatest franchises. If Alan Smithee had written and directed it, people were still gonna see it. IMO, anyone seeing films based on reviews might as well write them all down on little pieces of paper and draw from a hat. What the hell do reviewers know?

At 4:32 PM, Blogger suzbays said...

Sheesh, I leave town for a day and a half and this is what I come home to. I *have* seen a Tyler Perry movie and I hated it. It was the first one he did. After that I refused to see the sequel. I was surprised that the trailer for the new one looked even remotely interesting so I may see it.

My favorite moment to hate in the TP movie I saw was when the wife is pushing the husband in a wheelchair...mind you, the husband has to be at least 200 pounds. She pushes him so hard and fast that his 200 pound body is propelled into a hot tub. Not only that, but there were at least two marble stairs leading up to the hot tub. If *that* isn't stupid movie making, I don't know what is.

Another BIG problem I had with that movie was that the tone kept changing. It was supposed to be stupidly funny one minute and meaningful the next. And I hated that TP tried to pull off the big grandmother character. Oy.


At 6:21 PM, Anonymous yvonnjanae said...

I'll admit the way Tyler Perry changes tones is difficult for mainstream movie-goers to take. No matter. He is creating these stories for a particular audience and they UNDERSTAND and LOVE it. And if the movie only makes $50 million, it'll have a greater profit margin that the last Adam Sandler film, according to the LA Times.

At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

By reviews I mean what viewers are saying about a movie. Not just critics, but real people commenting on sites like this one. That's what gets a movie on my radar, particularly one like Once which had no pre-release hype I was aware of.

Based on what I'm reading about Why Did I Get Married?, I have absolutely no desire to see it. Tyler Perry is writing for a very specific audience he can cater to with efficiency, and I applaud that. It'll be interesting to see if he uses this box office success to broaden himself as a writer, or be content to make the same consumer product over and over.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...


You will NEVER get to to discuss who I want to naked and who I'd like to sleep with. It's not like I don't think about sex. I think about sex (with women) all the time, BUT I also want to be working screenwriter someday, and I think it's HIGHLY UNPROFESSIONAL to openly talk about who you'd like to sleep with, especially if it's someone you might be working with someday...

RATHER, I subscribe to Lynda Obst's approach of casual flirting. Read her book, "Hello, He Lied." Though it comes from a distinctive woman's perspective, Lynda does fuel the mind with constructs a creative person can use.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

You make a decent point, but the comment was meant in a joking manner, and it's something 78,000,009 of us think about, and a comment I'm sure she's heard before and would chuckle about.

So I guess I should hold off on posting that I'd love to see Portman, Kate Bosworth, Anna Friel, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Scarlet Johannsen, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Bell, Rachel McAdams, and a bunch of other hotties that I wouldn't mind seeing them as naked as the day they worn born?

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Patrick, you have fine taste.

EC, I'm a happily married man, and the Natalie Portman comment was a joke (because she's never done a nude scene).

But I'm sure if I ever met Natalie on a film set, we'd laugh about it. While she was naked.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Dudes, NP nekkid for free on iTunes, it's called Hotel Chevalier, it's a lead-in for The Darjeeling Limited.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that Scott's original comment was that TP's audience will go whether the movie is good or not. If you want to see racism in that statement, pull Perry's name out and say instead that Jigsaw's audience will go whether the movie is good or not. I don't think Perry has hoped to make films for white audiences thus far, he's done what any smart marketer does and aimed for a sure thing with a specific market, just as horror filmmakers would. The problem for Perry now, as I've read him commenting in EW, is that the big studios (probably up until last Thursday) don't consider him a player in their market's sandbox. I wish him luck, in this regard he's in the same boat with the rest of us, he's just got a comfier seat.

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Adleane said...

While it is true that the critics didn't show Tyler Perry's movie much love, the fact remains that like Jim Carrey, Tyler Perry has that magic formula that makes extremely popular movies that will draw an audience no matter how bad the actual script is.


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