“Those whom the gods wish to destroy,
they first make mad”
… ancient Greek proverb
I would add my own corollary to this: those whom the Gods would destroy, they first cause to believe they are gods.
I assume you’re getting tired of reading about John Carter, so I promise this is my last commentary on the subject. The press and the web are full of people trying to explain why the film failed. There’s an article in today’s Los Angeles Times “Calendar” section titled “Crash Landing” (online, the title was changed to “Why did Disney’s ‘John Carter’ flop?”) that focuses on studio leadership – or lack of it.
Yesterday’s New York Times Business Day section had “’Ishtar’ Lands on Mars” that splits its focus between the executives and Andrew Stanton. The web site vulture.com has what I thought was the most interesting of the three articles, “The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer” and focuses much more on Andrew Stanton’s role in dooming his own film.
I’ve thought further about my comments in an earlier blog in which I referred to that Great Hollywood Copout, “Nobody knows anything.” If that’s what you really believe, who does know something? Well, the gods of course. Read more
As much research has demonstrated, creativity in the arts seldom consists of producing something entirely new, but in putting together two or more elements that had not previously been brought together. A very large percentage of the elements in film storytelling are to a large extent based on what has come before.
But this does not mean you can willy-nilly combine elements in any which way The New York Times article linked below refers to the 1912 source material, A Princess on Mars (notice the gender shift in the film’s title), as “a bewildering mash-up.” Having now seen the film, I’d say that, if you don’t concern yourself with plot, character, and dialogue (something large portions of foreign audiences without a strong command of English don’t) and just surrender to spectacle, the film is often entertaining. Read more
Future historians may write that this month the Walt Disney Company finally jumped the shark.
The phrase is increasingly used in the film and television industry to indicate that something has reached its creative peak and henceforth will inevitable go downhill from there. The phrase comes from a September, 1977, episode of the long-running tv series, Happy Days, when “The Fonz,” in his identifying leather jacket, performs a stunt in which he is pulled by a speedboat over a penned-in shark near the Southern California coast.
The series continued on for nearly five years, so “jumping the shark” doesn’t mean it’s the sign of the end; it means that something or someone has run out of creative ideas, and it’s going to be downhill from there on. Rush Limbaugh in September, 2011, said Michelle Bachmann had jumped the shark with her story of a woman (who could not be found) who told her after a presidential debate that her child suffered from “mental retardation” after taking a vaccine that was being hotly debated. While it would be five months more before Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race, it was clear even to Limbaugh that it would all be downhill from there. Read more
“I knew after reading Howard Suber’s previous book, The Power of Film, that he knew a lot about what makes a film great as well as knowing the inner workings of filmmaking. He captured so well what I had to learn through decades of making over three hundred films and heading two studios. So I insisted that everyone working for me had to read his book. I explained to them that this was a guy who understands the creative process, and can explain not only how things work in films, but why they work.
Now, Suber has done it again. Letters to Young Filmmakers is a treasure trove of what all of us need to know about how films get made, not just writers but directors, producers and, yes, studio heads.
It is obvious from the fact that students of Howard Suber who graduated 20 or 30 years ago still keep up with him that he has had a continuing effect on their lives. It is also obvious that he makes learning about film and the film business fun and, at the same time, profound. He is a man many admire inside the industry, not only for the students who have studied with him (some of whom I’ve worked with) but also because he has often been a consultant in various capacities to several studios. Read more