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Blockbuster Imperative, The
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by Carina Hoskisson

"Show-biz manipulations -- and how you're part of the problem"
4 stars

TRIO CHANNEL PREMIERE: Sunday March 16th, 2003 check your listings:: Most of us groan loudly at the state of modern cinema without being able to understand why we are where we are. The Blockbuster Imperative succinctly places its finger on the cankerous root. The “B” movies of yester-year with their gangsters, cops & robbers and action sequences have been transformed into the modern blockbuster. The “A” dramas and pathos-filled vehicles that used to draw the huge budgets, stars, and box office zing, are now the indie flicks that can barely find distribution let alone success. As budgets grow more bloated and the stories become more vanilla, the public is still attending the cinema in record numbers...

The documentary, The Blockbuster Imperative is intended to follow Easy Riders, Raging Bulls in timeline and as a response. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls left off in the late seventies with the death of autuer filmmaking and the rise of the blockbuster as exemplified by Jaws. Next came Star Wars and Raiders. Businesses starting looking at Hollywood not as an entertainment capitol but as a moneymaking operation. When you can invest 40 million into a picture and walk away with 300 million, just try to keep the sharks from circling.

What The Blockbuster Imperative does very well is to show the callousness with which the public is treated by Hollywood and the dizzying game of chicken that both sides are playing. It seems the studios continue to make movies just to be blockbusters and we the public are complicit…but who is going to swerve first?

The Blockbuster Imperative features candid interviews with such notables as Bill Mechanic, John Horn, etc. which leave little of Hollywood machinations in the closet. A typical tale The Haunting as told by Terry Press, the Chief of Marketing for DreamWorks: She calls The Haunting “An unwatchable movie.” Tell us something we don’t know, you might add, and then to our surprise she does.
“[We] Hid the movie from critics, hyped it to the hilt. You think ‘Oh my God, its so bad.’ [But] we put this over and you hate yourself for putting it over. [The Haunting] didn’t deserve it, people didn’t deserve to plunk down their money. They thought they were getting something they weren’t getting. You can call it victory mixed with self-loathing. Its not an admirable thing--bamboozling large numbers of people is not an admirable business.”

Technically The Blockbuster Imperative is an OK TV documentary. It features little surprises in editing or the compilation. However, the interviewees featured are extraordinarily straightforward about the puppetry of The Business. Of course its not shocking to hear the truth about how movies are pitched (we know that it’s “Die-Hard on a Boat”) but it is interesting how brazen the talking heads are about the truth. Lili Zanuck admits that you never want to go into a pitch without another movie to reference. "No one wants to hear 'you've never seen this before'."

You've probably suspected that the marketing division is telling the production arm what to make, and you were right. The Toy Division of Warner Brothers told the Film Division that they could make a lot of cash in paraphernalia if Scooby-Doo got made, so it was. Marketing is present at the greenlighting of a movie to talk about what the trailer will look like. What business is it of the marketing department to make decisions on the creative aspects of a movie? It turns out it is their business, literally.
One of my favorite portions was about a favorite whipping child of most 'serious' movie goers: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I happened to like MBFGW. It went big without any funding or huge campaigns. As John Horn from the LA Times said "It made all those marketing guys and numbers men take a step back." Maybe you didn't like MBFGW as a movie, but you can hardly make a case for not enjoying how successful it became without a studio mapping every strategic step. Its far more satisfying to thumb our collective noses at the studios and say "We'll tell you what a blockbuster is."

The Blockbuster Imperative pretty much confirms what we’ve known for a long time at HBS: Hollywood doesn’t care about what we really want, they just want to make money. They make movies for teenagers with huge disposable incomes and lousy, under-developed tastes. Hey! I just came up with the way to solve the problem of too many terrible labeled-before-they’re-made Blockbusters: cut off allowances across the board. No more allowance=no more Wild Wild West.

I would hardly call The Blockbuster Imperative as thrilling or slick as Easy Riders, Raging Bulls but it certainly stands on its own as a commentary on the Studio’s business and the public’s demand for entertainment at any cost. The Blockbuster Imperative deserves 3 1/2 stars, but since we don't do halfs, I'll round it up to 4.

Casual film viewers should watch this documentary. Teenagers should watch it. It’s not very often that you get the invitation to go behind the curtain to see the old man pulling the levers. For all the middle of the road production values, The Blockbuster Imperative draws insightful connections between your pocketbook and the multiplex. It airs TONIGHT on the TRIO CHANNEL

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7334&reviewer=44
originally posted: 03/16/03 16:16:10
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User Comments

5/31/03 Theophilus Outstanding answer to those who moan, "Why doesn't Hollywood make movies like they used to? 4 stars
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Directed by

Written by

  Mark Hamill
  Peter Guber
  Paul Verhoeven
  Bill Mechanic
  Dean Devlin

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