Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The New Hollywood

Ed here: Cinema Retro linked to this article from the UK Guardian. It's a fascinating look at the New Hollywood and an interesting history of how we got here--starting with radio in the Twenties.

Above the world so high,,2291381,00.html

The age of gods and princes on the silver screen has passed, as we turn instead to fleeting celebrity and digital thrills. Phil Hoad tells of how we conspired to kill the stars

Friday July 18, 2008
The Guardian

After he assailed Oprah Winfrey's couch in May 2005, you have to hope Tom Cruise mused on the meaning of change. When he imagined his outbreak of zaniness, maybe it played in his head like a bar scene from Cocktail; but the derision with which the public greeted it was a tiny hint that the mood toward movie stars had darkened since Cruise's jubilant 80s and 90s. Hollywood's reigning king of kings was sacked by Paramount 14 months later, and though he was later made head of the revitalised United Artists, he's not in the clear yet: the knives are already out for his much-delayed Hitler assassination pic, Valkyrie.


Dark clouds have gathered over the whole of Hollywood's top tier. "Star power is definitely waning," says one producer at a major Hollywood production company. "There's no mystique any more. The power of celebrity has been commodified, and that weakens people's willingness to go and see stars. I can see Tom Cruise on Perez Hilton; why should I go to the cinema?"
The showbiz colossi that straddled the industry in top-heavy, high-concept blockbusters are fading: Arnold gone to politics; Mel gone off the rails; Bruce, Sly and Harrison all making their last throw of the dice with the recent returns of their superannuated franchises. Other stars have followed in their wake, of course, but few with the power to carry a movie. Will Smith is the only actor widely regarded as a sure thing at the box office, transcending race, class and even, as this month's Hancock showed, duff reviews.

You can't exactly say the stars got small, but somewhere along the line, in the 90s, it was the pictures that got big. The huge franchises that now dominate the release schedules, rolled out like military operations, often employ ensemble casts and invariably splurge on the CGI, decentralising the importance of the star actor. The Sparta epic 300 was typical of new-millennium thinking: jacked up to the helmet plumes on comic-book attitude and blue-screen aesthetics, but not a big-name actor in sight.

In this climate, the studios are beginning to seriously question whether the A-list are worth the going rate. Going or gone are the deals that were routine a few years ago, whereby a star would receive a fixed fee plus a percentage of the eventual box-office haul (Keanu Reeves tops the earning charts, having bagged $30m plus 15% to make an eventual $256m from the Matrix sequels). With the DVD profits that made these deals possible shrinking, and the world economy on the turn, Hollywood is looking to tighten its belt.

For the rest go here,,2291381,00.html


Anonymous said...

Thoughtful piece. Modern film celebrities are not stars, and I am at a loss to tell younger people what a star really was. Cultural evolution has ruled out the prospect of ever seeing real movie stars again, and now it looks like the celebrity commodity is losing its luster as well. There's not a one I would pay box office money to see.

Richard Wheeler

Ian Koontz said...

What goes around eventually comes around huh?

IIRC, WWII killed the old Studio System, when income tax peak rates topped 90%. Stars, knowing capital gains were taxed less, began demanding pieces of the profit pie, and the Studio System, with guys like Mayer, Cohn, and Zanuck at the helm, went kaput!

The movies became star- and director-driven, which was okay when the stars and directors KNEW how to drive, and made decent and fairly personal films--I'm talking Brando and One Eyed Jacks, Redford's films, Kubrick's films, and so on--but then came Star Wars and Jaws and now everything is sequels and comic books.

How great it would be to have quality trump Opening Weekend Numbers again, when a picture's success was measured by reviews and staying power, and not Domestic and Foreign Gross.

In my opinion, there are many more good actors than good directors and screenwriters, so I'd like to see the REAL creative minds behind good motion pictures get some of their mojo back again.

I love films, but somewhere in the last thirty years something happened: fewer films made for love, and too many made solely for money.

Maybe that's why WINGS is on my DVR right now, and TRANSFORMERS is not.