Why do Bad Shows do Well?

While truly great cinema and television fail to make it? This is today's question. A question that comes in the wake of:

Of the three movies listed above we attended two of the premieres. We won't attend the third (Twilight) on principle - the first Twilight movie was Ok, the follow-ons have gotten sillier and seem to represent an opportunity to see the main characters again in a sort of teen worship scenario. The other movies listed above seemed very promising from the initial reviews and trailers yet we walked out of both highly disappointed. 

If these three were ugly, how many teens would go to watch their movie?
Lincoln, which we just saw on Friday was a relatively lifeless and unimaginative take on Lincoln which chose to suck in every oddball piece of Lincoln mythology developed over the past 150 years. Skyfall was a movie that didn't seem to know where it was going for more than half of the picture with a James Bond who seemed as though he was doing his best to get out of his contract by turning in the most apathetic Bond performance in a generation  Yet both films have done exceptionally well. On the other, Cloud Atlas, which was remarkable on many levels, fell flat in the box office (at least here in the US, it did much better internationally).

Now, there are exceptions where great shows are actually recognized as being great these days, although most of that is coming from television cable networks. The best example of this is AMC who have developed and stuck by Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad in just the past 5 years. Other great television shows over the years haven't fared so well with comedies like Outsourced being cut, shows like Firefly being ditched and so on. Often times, truly great shows need time to build up audience or need at least not to be pitted against top-rated nonsense like American Idol. 

Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight - Kid's books and Comic Books now dominate Hollywood
Before Twilight, the last big hit at the theaters was the Hunger Games. It was perhaps even sillier than the Twilight saga and worse yet had stolen its entire concept from a Japanese movie called "Battle Royale" (a film which turned out to be more entertaining by far than hunger games - it's on Netflix). 

The book "Hunger Games" was a Ripoff Royale

So, this brings us back to our original question? Why do so many crap movies or shows do well while truly remarkable cinema and television get ignored? Here's our thoughts:
  1. More and more decisions on what gets produced (and how it is produced) is being based on demographics rather than story. 
  2. We have a precious few really talented writers these days in Hollywood. 
  3. People respond to trailers - and most of these trailers represent false advertising. Lincoln is a good example - it includes fully half of the most dramatic scenes of its entire 2 hours and 29 minutes in the two minute preview. Instead of watching the 2 hours of riveting cinema we expected there was maybe 5 minutes of real drama in the whole movie.
  4. People respond to brand and are afraid to try new things. Hunger Games is a brand, Twilight is a brand - they were both brands before they were movies. Lincoln is a brand as well - sort of. 
  5. People going to movies don't like to think too hard - or so Hollywood assumes. Sequels, brand franchises, re-tellings of the same old stories represent perhaps 2/3 of all Hollywood revenue. During Looper, which in fact wasn't even that complicated, we personally witnessed people acting as though their heads were about to explode.
  6. When people come to the movies expecting it will be good, often they're unwilling to admit that it wasn't. That's real loyalty - but it doesn't help guarantee that future movies will be made with any skill if you reward films that are flimsy and un-entertaining. 
  7. There seems to be lowered expectations for film quality these days. In this regard, cinema and politics seem to be competing with one another to see how dumbed-down they can get. Contrary to popular belief, however, the United States doesn't operate at a sixth grade level. 
There is nothing worse than going to a movie expecting to enjoy oneself and end up being stuck for two hours wishing you were somewhere else. We're grateful for gems like the Cloud Atlas when they do occur, but we think it's about time that Hollywood started raising the bar again in general on their major releases. Stephen Spielberg is a genius, we credited him with the best movie of all time, yet in Lincoln he makes the high point of the movie a bathroom - sorry - wash closet joke. 

That's just sad.  

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