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“I’d like to see something more romantic, you know, like An Officer and a Gentleman or something”

[ 134 ] January 5, 2013 |

I’m not sure why, but the fact that this weekend saw the release of yet another pointless remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre struck me as a particularly striking example of Hollywood creative bankruptcy.   And yet, when the market rewards it, what can you do?

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  1. LeeEsq says:

    During Holloween, I went to a booze and scary movies night at a friend’s house. Most of the scary movies we watched were slasher type horror movies. I brought over Fritz Lang’s M to watch. My friend’s response to the movie was “Damn it Lee, this is real scary not fake scary.” The oldest movies, with the least amount of explicit violence was also the scariest movie.

    More on point, the primary movie audience has always been teenage boys and young men with bad love lives so slasher movies and actions movies are always going to be more popular. Since special effects are cheaper now than they were in the past, its a relatively low investment for studios to produce B-movies in spades and get their money. My tastes lean more in the direction of romantic epics like Doctor Zhivago or zany but witty comedies like Airplane so I’m a bit out of luck. The LOTR movies are the closest I’m going to get to romantic epics these days.

    • Bill Murray says:

      M is a great movie, even Spielberg ripped it off

    • Anonymous says:

      More on point, the primary movie audience has always been teenage boys and young men with bad love lives so slasher movies and actions movies are always going to be more popular

      Why is that, d’ya think?

    • I’ve actually heard that quite a lot women watch horror. I consider myself a bit of an aficionado myself.

      I’m not into either torture porn or slasher flicks. I’m much more into stuff like “The Ring” or “The Descent” or “Martyrs” or the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes,” which was pretty amazing.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I’m pretty sure that prior to actually conducting market research in the 1940s and discovering that the gender mix of the movie audience (at that time) was about 50:50, Hollywood had assumed for decades that its audience skewed female.

      • Ed says:

        I’m pretty sure that prior to actually conducting market research in the 1940s and discovering that the gender mix of the movie audience (at that time) was about 50:50, Hollywood had assumed for decades that its audience skewed female.

        Yes. The generic target viewer then was a slightly older woman. The golden age was also, not coincidentally, a golden age for female stars. They still had shorter shelf lives than the male stars – the cutoff age for your average female star was 35, today it’s about 40 — but it’s been pretty much downhill for the ladies ever since, an outlier like Julia Roberts notwithstanding.

  2. bgn says:

    the primary movie audience has always been teenage boys and young men with bad love lives

    Even, say, in 1960? 1940? 1920?

    • LeeEsq says:

      From my theatre and film buff brother, at least since the 1930s.

      • Anonymous says:

        That strikes me as a pre-emptive apology for a lot of horror movies being racist, misogynist shit. Great horror films elude the all-important white boy audience when they fail to cater to said white boys’ prejudices.

      • sparks says:

        I need that expanded on. What ’30s movies were analogous to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, etc.? Even in the precode era, I don’t see any sort of connection. The only possible examples I can think of are some Westerns.

        • Leeds man says:

          I don’t know about the 30s, but when I was a boy, we exchanged Mars Attacks cards, and some very graphic American Civil War cards. Cinema took a while to catch up to the tastes of nasty little boys.

        • AR says:

          I think the analogy is not slasher/horror per say, but”B” or “C” movies that are the analogy i.e. cheap stuff to put people in seats. Before TV came along you actually had a lot more of that kind of movies. Think of all the old short films, sitcom style series, serials, remakes, etc. Before movies and radio, stage plays had the same type of variation, it was after new mass-media came along that plays had to cater to a different customer base. Once TV came to dominate, movies had to go after the type of audience that would be less inclined to stay home and watch TV with the family. To one degree or another that is still the case.

          • Walt says:

            Wallace Beery movies — wrestling pictures. What do you need, a road map?

          • LeeEsq says:

            Yeah this. Its not that teenage boys in the 1930s and 1940s watched the same type of movies as teenage boys in the present do but that the made up the main audience. There were lots of dumb adventure and action movies from the time that were popular with the audience.

            • sparks says:

              I thought we were talking about slasher flicks. Now it’s action/adventure? As explained above, the audience was very different – there were a lot more women going to the theater then (the ’20s-’30s, I mean, since that’s where I specialize). There were adventure films, and action was generally gangster films and Westerns.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        I don’t think this is correct, either as a matter of fact or as a matter of Hollywood assumptions (the latter of which is actually more important to understanding film production esp. in the earlier period). I do know that Hollywood didn’t actually social-scientifically study its audience until the 1940s. And I’m pretty sure that before they did so they (rightly or wrongly) assumed that their audience skewed female. I think I remember reading this somewhere in one of the University of California decade-by-decade History of American Cinema series (perhaps the one on the 1940s), but I can’t come up with a cite off the top of my head.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          From a recent LA Times piece on a Clara Bow film series (just the first thing on this issue that popped up on Teh Google):

          Unlike today, where Hollywood mostly caters to boys and young men, “the whole star system was created for female audiences,” noted Jan-Christopher Horak, head of the [UCLA Film and Television Archive].

          “Empirically, more young women went to the movies than young men, and once they had families, they made the decision and they catered to that audience,” said Horak. “If you look at the ratio between male and female stars, it is almost the opposite of what it is now. “

          • AR says:

            I am not disagreeing with you. My point is the teenage boy domination of the box office came after a new mass-media (TV) came to dominate America, which would peg the change to the 1950′s and ’60′s, which also happened to be when the studio star system started to really break down and when demographic marketing research started to come into play.

            • sparks says:

              Yes, IB is mostly correct, but the studios knew their audience skewed female before WWII by surveying and theater owner reports. That became less so when TV came to the fore. When the drive-in came to be a force in the ’50s, the films were tailored to teenage tastes by the indies cashing in on the trend they saw.

  3. wjts says:

    In every article I’ve read about the Les Miserables movie, I consistently misread director Tom Hooper’s name as “Tobe Hooper” and I get briefly excited about the prospect of a movie along the lines of Le Massacre à la Tronçonneuse à Montreuil-sur-Mer.

  4. It’s not like I am averse to violence in films; my favorites include The Godfather & Apocalypse Now, and I like Tarantino. But I’ve never been a fan of the slasher movie, not sure why people like them, not sure why teens in particular would like them. Do they continue to like them as they age or is it a teenager thing?

    • DrDick says:

      I am with you on this. I like Tarantino, Peckinpah, and John Woo, but slasher flicks are a real turn off.

      • Jeremy says:

        Same here. Especially torture porn (of which, movies like Hostel and Saw seem to be fairly popular here in Japan). That sort of thing just freaks me out.

      • When I was younger, during the first post-Halloween/Friday the 13th wave of slasher films, I used to rather enjoy them. Possibly because I was part of the young, maladjusted young man demographic mentioned above. I actually found them oddly cheering, in that I might have been depressed and socially awkward, but hey, at least I wasn’t hanging from a meathook getting disemboweled by a maniac, and as opposed to, say, romantic comedies, which just drove home how depressed I was.

        There’s also something about seeing them in a theatre, which I think fosters a sense of group bravado (no one wants to be the scaredy-cat who walks out) that adds to the enjoyment, if it is enjoyment.

        Now that I’m older, however, and do most of my movie watching via dvd, I find I’ve lost my taste for them. While I’d hesitate to claim that I’m any less maladjusted than I was as a teenager, I now find watching slasher films by myself kind of sad and creepy rather than exciting, as though I were an incipient serial killer — or at least that any neighbors listenin in might think I am (I’ve half-joked that anyone who owns the complete Saw series blu-ray box set should probably be on some sort of watch list).

    • Linnaeus says:

      I’m with you on this. Never liked slasher movies.

    • bob mcmanus says:

      Google Stephen King “the three types of terror”. #1 is the grossout. He says it is the least scary, but that is before he was hit by the truck. Which would you prefer personally, the creepy thing you can’t see, the giant spider, or have your eye sliced with a razor? The first two are scarey because of the possibilty of the third. Horror is not suspense or terror. Horror is disgusting.

      Body horror (Wiki entry), ala Cronenberg, is entirely legitimate. It is not supposed to make you comfortable, and there is usually no relief.

      • NBarnes says:

        Reference Alien. One gross-out scene that rivals anything we make today lends context to all of the other creepy-thing-you-can’t-see scenes.

        But I’m biased, because Alien is my Favorite Movie Evar.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        King’s accident injuries were relatively not gross, since most of them were internal. (See the last Dark Tower book for a good description.)

        And it’s not that there are three types of terror; he distinguishes between terror, horror and the gross-out in his nonfiction book about horror, Danse Macabre. Terror is when you hear the scratching of something huge from behind a closed door, trying to get in; horror is when the door pops open and it’s a twelve-foot-high cockroach; the gross-out is when the cockroach bites your head off. He’s also quite clear that even though terror is the finest of the three, he has no problem stepping down to horror or even the gross-out in his own work. (As you might remember from Dark Tower VII and the birth of Mordred Deschain.)

  5. Bill Murray says:

    And yet, when the market rewards it, what can you do?

    realize that market failures happen all the time?

  6. Thers says:

    If only we’d let citizens buy fully automatic assault rifles, we’d have fewer of these chainsaw massacres.

  7. Sherm says:

    Love lifts us up where we belong….

  8. scottmichael says:

    “Somefink I can take the WIFE to, yaknowwhuddIMEAN?”

    Best earworm all day. Thanks for it.

  9. Fighting Words says:

    Well, at least the market did not reward either of the “Atlas Shrugged” movies.

  10. efgoldman says:

    Damn, I hope Les Miz stays around for at least another couple of weeks. mrs efgoldman really wants to see it, and we can’t go for a while.

  11. Halloween Jack says:

    For Hollywood to be genuinely creatively bankrupt, there would have to be a dearth of creativity there, and I’m not sure that that’s ever really been the case. (See “The Black List” if you want specific examples.) It’s more a matter of asking yourself if making genuinely creative works has ever been the point of the industry, rather than whatever the public happens to want at the moment. FFS, (re)watch Barton Fink if this is unclear.

    • jefft452 says:

      “It’s more a matter of asking yourself if making genuinely creative works has ever been the point of the industry”

      Valid point
      A lot of what I think of great movies from the 30’ and 40’s were remakes of silent era movies

      “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” – sure they do, they made cheap crap a long time ago too, but yesterday’s cheap crap fell apart a long time ago

      But it sure feels to me that Hollywood is making more remakes and sequels then the used to, I just dont know if it’s real, or just my decent into old fogeydom

      • Papa Bendi says:

        Probably a bit of both, from a fellow fogey. But consider that the classic Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third film Warner Brothers made from that novel over a period of ten years. This has been going on a long time, I always feel like it starts becoming more objectionable when you have less use for the product overall.

      • sparks says:

        Um, not really. Remakes of silents were often not successful, and limitations of early sound made those films much less like late silents. What the ’30s/’40s brought was a number of films based on plays and books not suitable for silent films, i.e. dialog-driven.

  12. greylocks says:

    A lot of people like slasher trash. A lot of people like Budweiser.

    I suggest getting over it.

  13. Leeds man says:

    Fuck Hollywood. I’m watching Wages of Fear right now. White knuckles in five or six languages.

  14. JMG says:

    The thing is, you don’t have to see the movie, but you have to see the damn ads or miss the NFL playoffs.

  15. jeer9 says:

    Overpraised:

    Killer Joe: More black (and creepy sexual dark) than comic with a conclusion that lacks character consistency regarding the hit man/cop. Thomas Haden Church reprises his Wings role in convincing fashion.

    Looper: Makes Inception seem coherent; hit man returns to the past in order to kill three male children one of whom, due to excessive telekinetic powers, may turn out to be the cause of his love’s death in the present – even though killing them will not necessarily bring her back. Joseph G-L has some acting ability but spends the film imitating Willis’s smirking lack of talent (probably unavoidable given the roles and sort of amusing as a “Geez, this film is stupid” distraction but not compensatory enough). Bonus: Emily Blunt is present.

    Hyde Park on the Hudson: Only for those who believe a depiction of FDR as sexual predator (even in his wheelchair; don’t let him take you on a bucolic drive) needs to be told. Narrator/victim/lover fails to make a single interesting social observation throughout the tedium. Film would work only if she was viewed ironically rather than an object of sympathy. The Clinton soap opera from Lewinsky’s perspective – except Daisy’s not nearly as perceptive (yes, I know that doesn’t sound possible).

    Worth Seeing:

    The Sessions: The praise is not unjustified; Macy’s haircut (or lack thereof) was the only real quibble; has anyone ever seen a priest with a do like that, even in SF?

    Silver Linings Playbook: Very funny; two in a row for Russell after The Fighter. Dysfunctional families is his milieu. De Niro in good form.

    Hysteria: Vastly underappreciated comedy about the first vibrator developed in late Victorian England. Fine romantic relationship as well which explores the initial stirrings of political feminism as it clashes with medicine, psychology, and the law.

    Les Miserables: Ripe for parody at the Oscars but still emotionally powerful. “Mister, we could use a man like Victor Hugo today …”

  16. Jeremy says:

    As people were compiling the obligatory lists for 2012, lots of gamers as well were bemoaning the sequels and lack of new material as well.

    I’d actually like to see someone actually examine what percentage of movies (and games, tv series) are related to a prior franchise — either direct sequels or spin-offs/expansions on a universe.

    • NBarnes says:

      I say this mostly with respect to games, but it goes for movies as well.

      The number of bad, derivative, phoned-in games that get released is totally irrelevant. What’s important is how many good games get released. Bad content is inevitable. Thus it always was. But we actually live in a true golden age of games (and movies). There are more good games and moves released than one human can possibly take in. How can that qualify as anything but a golden age?

      • Murc says:

        The number of bad, derivative, phoned-in games that get released is totally irrelevant. What’s important is how many good games get released.

        Untrue. Derivative, shitty content can crowd out better content even if there’s a lot of good content still floating around. And if the shitty content establishes itself as the face of a genre, it can cause the entire genre to become something serious creators ignore.

        There’s a discussion about horror movies upthread. Part of the reason it is so hard to get a good horror movie made by top talent is that directors, actors, and studios regard the entire genre as a wasteland mostly inhabited by torture porn or bad b-movies.

        I would prefer the genres I like to be represented by their best materiel, rather than their worst, to ensure that further good materiel gets made. How many actual quality games don’t get made because EA spends a huge chunk of change raping Modern Warfare’s corpse every year? How many people regard THAT as the face of the FPS genre, rather than, say, Bioshock?

      • “Bad content is inevitable. Thus it always was. But we actually live in a true golden age of games (and movies). There are more good games and moves released than one human can possibly take in. How can that qualify as anything but a golden age?”

        Yup. It’s Sturgeon’s Law, of course. There has, and always will be, garbage. But there will always be the good stuff. Whenever someone moans about nothing original being released (when it comes to games), my first thought is, “Well, did you even _try_ to look, or you only went for the latest COD game?”

        There is good stuff out there, but the thing I’ve found is that you often have to discover it yourself.

  17. Michael Confoy says:

    Works better when Jagger sings officer with that cockney, enlisted men’s accent. Too much blood.

  18. John says:

    What I don’t really get about this is that I can’t imagine very much of the box office for “Texas Chainsaw 3D” is due to the use of the franchise. My basic understanding of the economics of slasher movies is that basically any slasher movie will make decent bank, because teenagers will basically go see whatever shitty slasher movie is in the theaters.

    So what’s the point of going back to the well of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” pseudo-franchise? Are there really people who are going to see it because of the association with the original?

  19. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Not a remake, but a sequel to the original. According to the AV Club it’s a big improvement on the truly terrible Texas Chainsaw flicks of recent years, in part because it is closer in spirit to the original, but it’s still, at best, mediocre. I’m certainly not going to see it.

  20. Joe says:

    Because Hollywood in the 1930s, e.g., didn’t put forth the same old thing over and over again? There are lots of movies out there. There’s a niche out there for this sort of thing. If you want something romantic, yeah, they have that too. Heck, there is even a movie with romance AND fracking.

  21. max says:

    “I’d like to see something more romantic, you know, like An Officer and a Gentleman or something”

    ‘Well, honey, why don’t we compromise? Let’s go see An Officer and a Chainsaw!’ — Beltway Democrat

    max
    ['In which Richard Gere hacks up Debra Winger because his instructor demanded proof of manliness.']

  22. Joe says:

    To toss it out there, though I didn’t see it, Oliver Stone was on Chris Hayes yesterday & argued Hollywood was pretty conservative overall.

  23. ajay says:

    More on point, the primary movie audience has always been teenage boys and young men with bad love lives

    Not entirely true. Movies are targeted at frequent viewers – the 10% of the population who buy 50% of the tickets. Most of them are in the 25-39 bracket. And the split of tickets sold is exactly 50:50 male and female.

    This is another Invisible Woman thing, I think. You see the same thing in fiction publishing. The publishers know perfectly well who’s buying their books, but the outsiders don’t. 80% of novels are bought by women. 60% of science fiction novels are bought by women – but you ask an outsider “what’s a typical SF fan” and they’re going to say “male teenager, pimples, lives at home”. In reality it’s more likely to be a 40 year old woman.

    http://www.mpaa.org/resources/5bec4ac9-a95e-443b-987b-bff6fb5455a9.pdf

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