Thursday, October 30, 2008

What, When, Where this Weekend - Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Splinter, My Name is Bruce

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters.

Opening this weekend...

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, written and directed by Kevin Smith

Premise: Lifelong platonic friends Zack and Miri look to solve their respective cash-flow problems by making an adult film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo begin to sense that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought.

Playing: Everywhere.

Despite all of his faults, I have great admiration for Kevin Smith. Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma were part of my coming of age as a film fan - these were the movies I'd watch, rewatch, and quote with my friends across the middle school lunch table, in the same way Quentin Tarantino helped reshape the way my generation watched movies. Do these guys have the chops that Billy Wilder or Paul Schrader did? No. But, if you were to ask historians in 50 years who had the greatest influence on this generation of young writers, I'm willing to bet you anything it'd be these guys.

I'm extremely guilty of all of their crimes. My screenplays are filled with characters that love to chatter about anything and nothing at all - I'll write entire scenes that are based on non-plot-related dialogue. So many professors and guidebooks will tell you that's against the rules - too often you'll find that those writers haven't sold a script since 1981. (If you can't do, teach.) Well, it was filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino that proved them wrong.

You can see the impact nowadays - Judd Apatow's work, Guy Richie's - even movies like In Bruges reek of those guys. If you're looking for a place where film was impacted in the early 90s, you gotta look at what Miramax was putting out in '93 and '94.

But, I'm not telling any of you guys anything you don't know. It's Kevin Smith. It might suck, but I'm in. I'll see all of his movies just like all of Woody Allen's. Case closed for now, but I'll be back to this in another post.

First Showing has a great, exclusive interview with Kevin Smith about the movie over here. So do Pajiba and the Miami Herald. And in the spirit of the film, Slashfilm has a great list of fictional porno flicks seen in movies. Check it out.

SPLINTER, written by Kai Barry and Ian Shorr, dir. by Toby Wilkins

Premise: Trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts, a young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together to survive this primal terror.

Playing: Village East

This movie looks like it could be campy fun, along the lines of what Slither was. I'm in no rush to get to the theater, but my interest is piqued.

TimeOutNY liked it... sorta. New York Magazine definitely did. Hollywood Reporter did not.

MY NAME IS BRUCE, written by Mark Verheiden, dir. by Bruce Campbell

B Movie Legend Bruce Campbell is mistaken for his character Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy and forced to fight a real monster in a small town in Oregon.

Playing: Landmark Sunshine

I want to see this, but I'm also part of the wacky cult of Bruce. It's gotten terrible buzz so far, but if you've seen Army of Darkness as many times as I have you'll be adding it to your Netflix as well.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Hollywood versus The Recession

I work for a service organization in NYC that works with over 330 non-profit theatres throughout the City. This morning, we held a (arts and theatre) community-wide forum on the economy. The timing couldn't have been better, for not long after I got back to my desk, I came upon the following on during my lunch break.

The movie business may not be as recession proof as some industry executives have suggested, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Wednesday), citing a recent study by Forrester Research. According to the study, consumers now have numerous cheaper alternatives to a night at the movies -- particularly the Internet. It found that most adults 25-34 are most willing to sacrifice moviegoing during a recession but they are least willing to give up Internet access. They are also bypassing Netflix and brick-and-mortar DVD rental stores and picking up DVDs instead at supermarket kiosks that are renting them for $1.00 a pop. The study, however, was dismissed by John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, who told the Times": "It's not that the cinema business is completely immune to recessions, but the industry appears to be recession-resistant. If there are decent movies, people are going to come out."
I've been speaking with Zombie a lot about the economy and how it might affect our respective industries - his being print media, mine being theatre (outside of film, of course). We both agree that the economic downturn could spell BIG problems (and is in fact doing so in many cases). Onyx, ever the optimist, has held firm to the stance shared by John Fithian that people will still go see movies, even if they have to stretch their dollars elsewhere. While I was interested to read that even Netfilx seems to be losing subscribers - or at the very least, not attracting new ones right now - I, too, must agree that there has always been a place for film, despite or perhaps because of any troublesome times. Since the silent movies were first accompanied by live piano music, people have turned to the cinema as a welcome form of escape, at least for two hours at a time. (I'm not sure that commercials of luxury cars before the previews even start are such a good idea right now, but the films themselves certainly have a place in the economy, whatever state it might be in.)

The only question I have is about the internet. If it's true that some people are foregoing the live movie theater experience for downloadable content - and I'm sure it is - where does that leave production and distribution companies? Supposing audiences are opting for a night in with either a pirated movie or a downloadable one once it's released to DVD and the internet, with the drop in box office revenue, is it possible we'll see a drop in production financing or quality? Some companies have already cut their slate back by four, six, or more movies per year. Granted, this is an attempt to ensure the highest quality for those films they do produce. But just to speculate, what could happen if more and more audience members decide to stay home and skip the big screen experience (much to Onyx's displeasure)? Hopefully, nothing bad. If anything, perhaps the economy and any ensuing uncompelled audiences will force Hollywood (and every filmmaker, film industry, film anyone) to drive the quality of their films up. Audiences won't pay twelve dollars to see a mediocre movie during hard financial times. But they will still pay for something great.

Maybe this recession will usher in a new era, the era of unprecedented, unrivaled, and unfaltering superb quality cinema.