Monday, February 06, 2012

Big Filmmakers Don't Challenge Themselves

I just read that director Joe Johnston's next film, Not Safe for Work, is budgeted at $2.5 million.

It's got a bit of a slick action plot--a young paralegal is trapped in an office with a killer who is performing corporate espionage--but I was more interested in the budget.

I like Johnston and most of his films. This guy, after spending years at ILM as a special effects producer, has directed (among others) The Rocketeer, Jumanji, The Wolfman, Captain America, Jurassic Park III and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He makes mainly special effects-oriented B-adventure pics. Nothing wrong with that; I put him on the same level as guys like Joe Dante and Richard Donner; guys who make solid entertainment but who aren't ever really going to be taken seriously as filmmakers. Guys who make great, enjoyable flicks.

What's interesting is that I've also just seen War Horse, another joyless piece of Spielshit from Hollywood's most overblown hack. It's like every other movie he's made since the entertainment media suddenly decided (around 1993, but especially post-Private Ryan) that Spielberg was an Important Filmmaker. He used to make enjoyable flicks, too. (You guys can shit all over George Lucas as much as you want, but at least he never got pretentious about the kind of movies he was making; sure, sure, you didn't like The Phantom Menace and you whined about it until the end of time, but at least he never remade Battleground and claimed it was the most important tribute to that Greatest Generation claptrap.)


My point is, I wish more filmmakers in Spielberg's position would challenge themselves to work in a different set of confines. Remember, as everyone has always said, the best thing that happened to Spielberg while making Jaws is that the shark never worked, and it forced him to be creative. Can you imagine what that would look like now, with his over-earnest sense of direction, his inability to let enough hot air out of a story to tell it in a lean and interesting manner (nothing under 2 hours, ever), and the ability to just CGI-shoehorn a shark into anything he wanted? It would be awful and you know it. War Horse awful. AI awful. Private Ryan awful.

Whatever Joe Johnston does with this movie, good or bad, I'm just interested to see someone step out of their comfort zone, strip their approach down, and just make a fucking movie. I don't think Spielberg is remotely capable of doing something similar. I'd like to see more filmmakers challenge themselves to do something smaller, go back to basics, step away from their computers and just make a fucking movie.

Scorsese could do it, maybe. Maybe. But definitely not Spielberg.


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Scorsese went totally out of his comfort zone with HUGO and made an effects driven movie and that turned out all right for us. I totally agree with you about War Horse. I refuse to see it for all the reasons you mentioned. These days it seems only the name directors and stars let me down. Ghost Protocol was a rare, pleasant exception.

SamuraiFrog said...

I haven't seen Hugo, but I don't think it's outside of 21st century Scorsese's comfort zone at all. His movies have nearly always been production design-oriented, but once you've spent $100 million to build an entire replica of an 1860s poor New York neighborhood, you're not exactly making small films anymore. One of the few things The Aviator had going for it, too, was some truly breathtaking effects sequences.

You don't need to see War Horse; it's every Spielberg movie since Private Ryan, but with a horse.

Splotchy said...

I don't particularly like a lot of the output of Spielberg, but I really thought Catch Me If You Can was a very good movie, and I had to get over my dislike of Tom Hanks to like it.

I don't know that the film is outside his comfort zone (whatever a comfort zone implies), but it wasn't awful at all.

SamuraiFrog said...

I liked parts of it, I just have a hard time getting past Spielberg's misogyny.