Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fast & Furious

In one of its more thought-provoking articles of the semester, Entertainment Weekly, released an article about the fascination of Fast & Furious' continued success. It opened by noting that almost all of the major superheroes dominating today's box office are white collar and white. Though Superman and Spiderman are both an exception to the hypothesis, I would say that their less than white collar story doesn't seem that genuine. Clark Kent is (well first of all he's actually royalty from another planet, but on this earth he is) a farmer's son, but I remind myself that half of this country (particularly in the midwest) is very proud of being good ol' American farmers, so that doesn't really seem to count. Peter Parker, though struggling in New York City, does seem to have the eloquence and put-togetherness that suggests he would be something so much greater if he just a had a little money, and he's a genius. Movie Makers did a good job of making even their most under-privilaged white heroes very successful societal figures.

Then you have Fast & Furious, where the cast is "self-conciously blue collar, rooted in an automotive culture." Not a scientist or farmer in sight; just raw strength and a exceptional amount of non-white stars. According to EW, Fast Five grossed $626.1 Million, which is only a couple million dollars away from matching Iron Man 2's grossing return. So what does this movie have that allows it to contend with the big budget super-hero films??

EW says that the diverse cast plays a huge role in its like ability. Not in the way where the black friend popping up seems to be a diversity ploy (now viewing Don Cheadle in a new light as I write this). EW specifically says that the diversity seems "unplanned" which can be very relieving for an audience, who is very aware of every time producers try to pull out an intentional diversity move.

Another factor to its success: "its action is cheerfully old-school. No 3-D. No IMAX." According to the director, they were going for special effects that all seem real, which is sadly a rarity in Hollywood. All the action scenes seem to be, and aim to be relatively close to possible, if only someone had the guts to burst a car through an airplane wall as it crash lands.

Is this the end of superheroes? Where superheroes represented the inner outlaw in "upstanding citizens" like Bruce Wayne. The Fast franchise seems to be playing with the OUTER outlaw; the raw, unapologetic action in every man (and because of the cast's diversity, it does seem to be sending a message to EVERYONE). Now that I've read this article, I find myself thinking of superheroes so cynically. "Aw poor you, you are such an upstanding guy, no one understands the burden you have" it suddenly becomes the white man's burden in the worst way. Where as the Fast franchise seems so much more about action, change, taking things into your own hands.

I've never seen any of the movies, but now that I've grown so tired/irritated with movies like Iron Man, I might take a chance on it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kick Starting A New(ish) Movement

Renowned comedic actor Zach Braff has been greenlit by Worldview Entertainment to produce his film, Wish I was Here, after successfully garnering $2.6 million of crowd funding from Kickstarter. In total, the film’s budget is projected to be $10 million and will star Zach Braff in a plot that is reminiscent to a general prodigal-son-rekindles-ties-with-family story arch.

Perhaps as more and more films gain large-scale backing from sites like Kickstarter, more independent moviemakers will be able to produce more autonomously, possibly retriggering a renaissance of subgenre exploration, as writers will be able to take risks that large studios would never back otherwise.

That being said, Kickstarter purists are enraged that big name actors like Zach Braff and Kristen Bell ($5 million for Veronica Mars) are using the site for multi-million ventures, which in their minds, undermine the entire premise of the site helping innovators who are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. Perhaps an alternative version of Kickstarter could be founded where fans of certain creative minds could crowdfund their projects in a collective manner—away from big studios and non-film projects.

D.I.S.N.E.Y. and Live-Action Television

Disney is often given a lot of flack for trying to take advantage of every potentially profitable venture that it may have within its grasp, whether in licensing, merchandising or franchising. That being said, it can do so with admitted aplomb, because it is one of the few companies in the world with such a far-reaching influence—and control.

Coming off of its success with the television series Once Upon a Time, Disney has decided to once more tap into its large arsenal of characters and revitalize them through another television serial. However, instead of the iconic cast of princesses, Disney will be channeling its newly adopted Marvel identity through the upcoming television show, S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. When television is made for the sake of being a licensable gold mine, does it also subliminally alter the inherent intent of the show’s message? Furthermore, will these kinds of industry maneuvers create a new category of big studio syntax to arise?

An Emerging Gay Subgenre?

With mainstream television more readily creating parts for openly gay characters—Glee, The New Normal, Ugly Betty—and even overtly suggesting alternative representations, such as “Max” from Happy Endings, it only seems like a matter of time before the LGBT presence becomes large enough to warrant its own subgenres.

 Therefore when a number of the aforementioned shows got canceled by their networks, a new opportunity arose for television to rebalance this loss in the upcoming season. HBO just greenlit an untitled show that self-identifies as a “gay-themed dramedy series,” with three young gay friends in San Francisco trying to find where they are in life.

With the exception of The L-Word, very few shows feature a gay-dominant cast, where the gay character isn’t typecast in a supporting role as a comedic friend or bullied misfit. Hopefully, this will be the start of a trend in Hollywood where more openly gay characters will have roles where their sexuality comes second or even third to any of their other personal characteristics.

The fact that “gay-themed” is not the singular, most important defining characteristic of this show’s genre is promising in indicating that gay storylines are not only becoming more mainstream, but are also to the extent where they can become less blatant subgenres. 

A Sequel By Any Other Name

A week before Fast & Furious 6’s wide release, Universal Studios announced that it is already in pre-production for the series’ seventh film. While the franchise has enjoyed somewhat consistent box office success from the series, it seems as though the plan to create a sequel comes before the film’s plot development, itself. In effect, as large studios allow the call for a sequel to dictate the terms of the narrative, the content is formed after the loose promise of a structure. Examples of these would include Fast & Furious, The Hangover and Transformers: films that become largely made for the sake of being marketable as sequels. This is no new phenomenon, but the continual churning out of sequels that have plot so deprioritized in the order of production, feeds into this trend.  

The most flagrant reminder of this calcifying “made-for-sequels” genre that I’ve seen recently, came in the form of Iron Man 3’s ending sequence. Iron Man not only has his powers removed from him, but removed in such an irreversible manner—surgically amending a massive cavity in his chest—that surely this should mark the end of the franchise. However, even then, the studio remains unable to fully close the door on this lucrative series, as it ambiguously asserts, “Tony Stark will return” during the ending credits.

Even movies that are based on pre-existing serial works face this dilemma—albeit on a lesser scale. Singular pieces of work are no longer impervious to large-scale “sequalization,” especially when stand-alone books like The Hobbit are split into two parts.