Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Righteous Megalomania: Creative Executive for Hire

It's simple math: Ho'wood needs me, and I need a job.

Those dudes over there in Ho'wood have no idea what makes a movie that the people will fall in love with, only how to front-load some lackluster ideas with massive budgets, multimillion-dollar print and advertising blitzes, and lame distractions like 3-D in lieu of good stories or capable storytelling.

Just as all it would take to get truly progressive social policies on the table are public officials who aren't spineless or sociopathic, all the movies need is a creative executive who makes the sane calls, pushes for real ideas instead of bait-and-switch schemes gleaned from the advertising industry. Pre-1966 Ho'wood (aka Hollywood) was full of such moguls. For all the racism, sexism, jingoism, and general dizziness that marks Hollywood history, it must be said that the businessmen who ran the show early on were at least in touch with audiences and filmmakers, not just baiting them with barrels of cash and empty promises of "awesomeness." (We live in the Awesome Age, where every scrap of popular entertainment is calculated to knock you down on your ass at every instance. The general effect, though, is similar to watching a hyper kid's melodramatic "death" during a round of cops-and-robbers.  "There is nothing so boring in life, let alone in cinema, as the boredom of being excited all the time"--Anthony Lane.)

I, S.C. Boone, am of the old mogul tradition. And, for whichever studio chooses to hire me, I will happily work for the going rate of a McDonald's franchise manager. I will labor as hard as any executive being paid seven figures, but with far more passion and personal conviction.

Since I'm making this pitch on a blog, one might not take it too seriously. But I am perfectly serious. Give me all your top-tier scripts, talent pool and development strategies for review, and I will tell you how to make classics that the people will welcome into their lives like family, for years to come. Your other boys can tell you how to turn a dollar, but I will tell you how to be great again, my lord.

A few conditions: I must be allowed to work far away from Los Angeles and New York, in my new city, Toronto. Send any materials for review by email, snail mail or FedEx.

This is the job I was born to do. And just as Walter Murch once invented a now-indispensable occupation, the sound designer, I envision an Imagination Triage Department installed in every major studio of the future.

That's my pitch, for  now. And just to give a sense, below is a freebie/sample note for... hm, let's spin the wheel... pick a studio.... okay, WARNER BROS.:

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Currently in development)
DO NOT hire a new, young actor to continue the role of Max, in false continuity with the original trilogy. If creator-director George Miller has aged 25 years since the last "Max" right along with his fans, then why can't Max himself age, magnificently, crazily? Max has been wandering the wasteland all these years, and now, white-bearded, leathered, bejeweled, scarred and tatted down, he emerges like a granddaddy Hell's Angel. He now drives a modified Stryker combat vehicle, a barely-tamed hyena riding shotgun. A sexy, slightly androgynous (but not enough to scare off the fanboys) Feral Girl (Omahyra Mota) mans the machine gun turret.

Stick with the original plan of shooting the film in Africa, and give us some kind of African/ghosts-of-colonialism/Third World uprising plot. No, Max doesn't Save the Children this time. Let him get swept up in and overwhelmed by some kind of neo-tribal conflict. Let these Africans have a real, functioning, teeming civilization built upon the post-apocalyptic ashes of the one that once persistently sabotaged their progress. Let Max by turns be foe, wise, crazed counsel, and, finally, awed observer of the intrigues that unfold in this world unlike anything he knew in the Australian wasteland. All-new outrageous eye candy.

Now, anyone who thinks Mel Gibson's psychotic telephone rants earlier this year would harm the film's chances and Warner Bros.'s reputation is being knee-jerk naive. Let Gibson do a few weeks' penance with a press conference and some kind of rehabilitative reality series. Then get on with an action epic that ponders the clash of not only civilization versus barbarism but also of generations, in the brute-poetic manner of Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, only far more balletic, as Miller's action stylings have always been grace personified. The world needs this. No one needs yet another youth-pandering franchise reboot that destroys all sense of continuity while exalting only rapid, juvenile, solipsistic consumption.--NOTE PRICE $14,000 WAIVED


Mandrill said...

That. Is. Awesome!

I want to see this Mad Max film. ~I don't care if Mel is a psychopathic racist misogynist as long as the film is good (Just like millions of people don't seem to care that Wagner was a Nazi, the music is good so who gives a s**t?)This would be an epic movie. I wish you luck in getting it picked up

anthony said...

You're a hero. At least for this post.

Anonymous said...

it's a great idea

Mack Reed said...

Mandrill - factcheck: Wagner died decades before the Nazis existed. He was merely *beloved* by Nazis.

Fred Sanford said...

Fucking brilliant.

If only...

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see this movie! We need more ideas like this instead of the (for the most part) junk that fills theaters today.

Anonymous said...

my god i read this and thought maybe i had wrote it. we are kindred spirits. its like this "expendables" movie. the script I have for the aging action heroes that unite to save a situation is way more comical and classic than this dud turned out to be. I want to be in your first triage unit, pls.

odienator said...

I just want to be featured in the circle of the S.C. Boone Pictures logo.

Steven Boone said...

"want to be in your first triage unit, pls."

Kid, you got the job. Yes, The Expendables could have been something. It's Stallone's third blown chance at a True Grit of his own (after his visually botoxed Old Rocky and Old Rambo flicks).

Steven Boone said...

Odie, you can be the S.C. Pictures lion, but instead of growling, you must deliver the Shadow Henderson line.

Dax said...

Jeez, I don't know. First off is the idea of how this Max is depicted. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having Mel Gibson back in the role, it's really the idea of how what you've written about him feels in line with the Hollywood thought process of sequels being the same, but bigger, no Bigger, no BIGGER. A lot of this feels like you're simply trying to remake "Mad Max 2," but even more "badass" this time. Instead of driving a V8, he drives a Stryker, instead of having a dog, he has a hyena (barely tamed), instead of hanging around with a Feral Kid, he hangs around with a hot twenty-something Feral Girl.

I like the idea of the African civilization built upon the ashes of the previous civilization who once undermined them. You mention a "neo-tribal conflict." By this, am I to assume that there are two or more civilizations at odds with one another? I think the ideas you present here are interesting and full of potential, but you would naturally need to flesh them out more to give one a better understanding of what you're going for. To be honest, though, the African "neo-tribal conflict" sounds like it could be a standalone movie, and leave Max out of it altogether. As much as I'd love to see a new Mad Max movie that's on par with the first two, I'm just not sure Max needs to be involved here. If mishandled, Max's presence could even look like pandering, like the inclusion of that Myers character in "Hellboy," or having Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai."

I understand the love for "Mad Max 2." Although I think it's somewhat debatable, I understand why "Mad Max 2" is considered the best of the Mad Max movies. But one of the reasons I personally love that movie is because it doesn't fall into the sequel trap of being a remake in a sequel's clothing. Although there's still "Max vs. bikers" action sequences, the movie still manages to evolve the story and expand the world established in the original, rather than repeat it. And much of what you've written unfortunately feels like repetition. I think you should focus on developing this post-apocalyptic African society (or societies) and the indigenous characters first. If you really feel that this needs to be a Mad Max movie, then make sure that Max is more than just a badass tour guide, and actually brings something of value to the story without undermining and/or overshadowing the other characters.

For what it's worth, I'm hardly an expert on what works in movies. I have no idea how to make "classics." I really am just some Internet jerk-off and can only offer an opinion on whether or not these feel like good ideas to me. All that said, good or bad, "Fury Road" will probably never happen anyway.

Steven Boone said...

Dax, Ho'wood's problem isn't in making things bigger; it's that they've forgotten how to tell SCREEN stories at any scale. It isn't that they don't have good source material; it's that there's rarely any real style, grace or heart anymore. The other day I was watching Peckinpah's Convoy, a much-ridiculed trucker epic from my childhood. I am continually surprised at how well it holds up each time I check in with it, versus similar action movies of today. B-movie crude as it is in its blue collar boys vs. smokey plot, it glides across the screen like a dream. Peckinpah's camera simply adores these redneck and soul brother caricatures as living personages, practically glowing from within. Spider Mike, Widow Woman, Pig Pen and Rubber Duck are luminous beings, silly as they are. The film is a cartoon, yes, but quite lived-in and warm-blooded in the way it regards this band of oddballs-- their solidarity, infighting, separations and reunions.

That's what makes something like Star Wars so great and timeless: It's about friends and loved ones, together, apart, and together again. Joseph Campbell tells us about the hero's journey, but in the great modern trilogies that use Campbell as a springboard (Star Wars, Mad Max, Matrix), the drama of friends thrown together and torn apart (and yet acting in spiritual concert across time and space-- whoa) is just as crucial to our rapturous investment as a Hero's Rise.

So we should bring Max back because he is our friend, period. We don't need any especially clever or heroic role for him to fill this time around. We just need to believe that he has lived his life all this time without us. He doesn't have to prove anything to us. That's the mistake Lucas and Spielberg made with Indy 4. Indy could have been more of a Sherlock Holmes problem-solver figure this time around, as befits his age and wisdom. He was already getting tired and sore twenty years ago-- why the hell would he go around leaping from trees in his 60's?

Ho'wood simply has trouble imagining that audiences would pay to see Indy or Max or Shaft or any seasoned action hero doing anything but the acrobatics he performed in his youth. THAT'S the failure of imagination I'm talking about, not a failure to come up with some uniquely convoluted rube goldberg plot tchotchke.

It's a failure to understand the relationship audiences have enjoyed with certain beloved characters. This relationship is the bedrock of those franchises that endure as something deeper than Avatar box office receipts. At the heart of it is a kind of nostalgia and sentimentality that today's stone-cold-killer action filmmakers avoid like the plague.

As for the African stuff, that's easy. And that's not my job. I'm the executive, remember? My screenwriters will knock that one out of the park. Max's role doesn't need to be primary for it to be a Mad Max flick. The other great secret of the trilogy is that the second lead is always Miller's "visual music" montage style. If we have that, we have 50% of the Maxiness.

As for "expert" opinions, there are none, Dax. We're all jerk-offs, internet or otherwise, Ho'wood-employed or unemployed. The only meaningful dividing line is between those who jerk with ardor, attentiveness and abandon (triple-A!) and those who do it according to formulas, market research, complex algorithms, fear...

Dax said...

I really like the idea of a Max who ages more naturally than pretty much every other action hero out there. If that's what you're going for, then count me in on wanting to see that. I remember when "Rocky Balboa" was close to release, I mentioned to someone that I wouldn't mind seeing a Rocky movie that doesn't end with him fighting someone. Their response was, "What else can he do?" Of course, the original "Rocky" only had about two fights in it, and the rest of the movie focused mainly on character drama. So I understand the annoyance at seeing a sixtyish Indiana Jones jumping around and throwing down like he was still in his thirties, and the desire to see these characters continue on with this ridiculous level of physical prowess tends to raise the question of why people liked these characters so much in the first place. Anyone can write an ass-kicker. If Max's physical abilities are believably limited by his age, then I can understand the need for the Stryker and the hyena. You sound really passionate about this, so the question now is, will Hollywood listen?