Why Did 2010 Suck So Much? (Part 2 … really Part 1 … But not really.)

Last time, on “Why Did 2010 Suck So Much”…

(I wish I had a really good montage recapping everything from last time, with all the life-altering news, terrorist threats, hostage situations and sudden cliffhangers that left everything hanging in a life-or-death balance until we got to this moment in time. But I don’t. I can give you a pretend star wipe, that’s about it.)

I basically answered the question that would follow up the main question, which is (see title). So, now we’re left to actually answer the question I set out to answer.

In Texas we call that walkin’.

Last time we were hitchhikin’. Lonely man and shit. Now we have a place to go. I mean, I don’t really know how we’ll get there, but we’ll figure it out. We’re not Paul Simon. We’re on our way, and we know where we’re going.

The way this part is going to work is, to try to figure out why 2010 sucked so much, we’re going to do the most obvious thing possible (because, come on…me? effort?) — go over all the films from 2010 and see where the problem is. lems are. Problems are.

And since I’ve already got it in my head that 2009 was a better year for movies than 2010 was, what better way to test the problems of 2010 then by comparing them to 2009? So what we’ll do is use that handy dandy year in film article for both 2009 and 2010, and list all (or most. I might have missed some through the scanning, but whatever, we probably won’t really miss them) the films that got both wide releases and limited releases in 2009 and 2010. Then compare. First, the 2009 wide releases:

Bride Wars, Not Easily Broken, The Unborn, Hotel for Dogs, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Notorious, Paul Blart, Inkheart, Underworld 39 1/2, New in Town, Taken, Coraline, He’s Just Not….Yeah, That, Pink Panther 2, Push, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Friday the 13th, The International, Fired Up, (Tyler Perry movie), Street Fighter: Chun-Li, Watchmen, Race to Witch Mountain, Duplicity, I Love You Man, Last House on the Left, Knowing, 12 Rounds, Haunting in Connecticut, Monsters vs. Aliens, Adventureland, Fast & Furious, Dragonball, Obsessed, Observe and Report, 17 Again, Crank 2, State of Play, The Soloist, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Battle for Terra, Wolverine, Next Day Air, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator 4, Dance Flick, Night at the Museum 2, Drag Me to Hell, Up, The Hangover, Land of the Lost, My Life in Ruins, Imagine That, Taking of Pelham 123, The Proposal, Year One, Transformers 2, My Sister’s Keeper, Ice Age 75Public Enemies, Brüno, I Love You Beth Cooper, Half-Blood Prince, G-Force, Orphan, Ugly Truth,(Un)Funny People, G.I. Joe, Julie & Julia, Perfect Getaway, Bandslam, District 9, The Goods, Ponyo, Time Traveler’s Wife, Shorts, Inglourious Basterds, Post Grad, Halloween 2, The Final Destination, Taking Woodstock, All About Steve, Extract, Gamer, 9, (Tyler Perry movie), Whiteout, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Informant!, Jennifer’s Body, Surrogates, Fame, The Invention of Lying, Whip It, Zombieland, Saw VI, Couples Retreat, Law Abiding Citizen, Where the Wild Things Are, Amelia, Astro Boy, This is It, The Box, A Christmas Carol, The Men Who Stare at Goats, 2012, The Boat that Rocked, The Blind Side, New Moon, Planet 51, Ninja Assassin, Old Dogs, Princess and the Frog, Armored, Brothers, Everybody’s Fine, Invictus, Avatar, It’s Complicated, Sherlock Holmes.

Anything I left out of there I guarantee you that we won’t miss. And by that I mean, I’m not going back.

Now, here are (most of) the limited releases of 2009 (These are less important. We’ll just get the important ones down): Sunshine Cleaning, The Great Buck Howard, The Brothers Bloom, Away We Go, Moon, Whatever Works, Dead Snow (Nazi zombies, for the win), The Hurt Locker, Surveillance, (500) Days of Summer, In the Loop, The Cove, Thirst, World’s Greatest Dad, Big Fan, A Serious Man, Bronson, An Education, Black Dynamite, Antichrist, Precious, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Messenger, The Young Victoria, Paranormal Activity, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Me and Orson Welles, The Road, Up in the Air, The Lovely Bones, A Single Man, Crazy Heart, Nine, The Last Station, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

Now, as promised, the wide releases of 2010: Leap Year, Youth in Revolt, The Book of Eli, The Spy Next Door, Legion, Tooth Fairy, Edge of Darkness, When in Rome, Dear John, From Paris with Love, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, Valentine’s Day, The Wolfman, Shutter Island, Cop Out, The Crazies, Alice in Wonderland, Brooklyn’s Finest, Green Zone, She’s Out of My League, Remember Me, The Bounty Hunter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Repo Man, Hot Tub Time Machine, How to Train Your Dragon, The Last Song, Clash of the Titans, (Tyler Perry movie), Date Night, Death at a Funeral, Kick-Ass, The Back-Up Plan, The Losers, Furry Vengeance, Nightmare on Elm Street, Iron Man 2, Just Wright, Letters to Juliet, Robin Hood, MacGruber, Shrek 4, Sex & the City 2, Prince of Persia, Get Him to the Greek, Killers, Marmaduke, Splice, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Jonah Hex, Toy Story 3, Knight and Day, Grown Ups, Eclipse, The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, Predators, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Inception, Salt, Cats & Dogs 2, Charlie St. Cloud, Dinner for Schmucks, The Other Guys, Step Up 3D, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Vampires Suck, Lottery Ticket, Nanny McPhee 2, Piranha 3D, The Switch, The Last Exorcism, The American, Going the Distance, Machete, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alpha and Omega, Devil, Easy A, The Town, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of  Ga’Hoo Hoo Gives a Shit?, Wall Street 2: Money Only Takes Power Naps, You Again, Let Me In, The Social Network, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Life as We Know It, My Soul to Take, Secretariat, Jackass 3D, Red, Paranormal Activity, Saw 3D, Due Date, (Tyler Perry movie), Megamind, Morning Glory, Skyline, Unstoppable, Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Next Three Days, Burlesque, Faster, Love and Other Drugs, Tangled, The Warrior’s Way, Narnia 3, The Tourist, The Fighter, How Do You Know, Tron: Legacy, Yogi Bear, Little (Mother)Fockers, True Grit, Gulliver’s Travels.

And the limited releases: Frozen, the Ghost Writer, Defendor, The Runaways, Greenberg, City Island, Waking Sleeping Beauty, After.Life, The Joneses, Paper Man, The Human Centipede, Harry Brown, Solitary Man, Micmacs, Agora (We’re at June already. Noticing anything, yet?), Winter’s Bone, Cyrus, I Am Love, Love Ranch, The Kids are All Right, The Girl who Does Things 2 & 3, The Extra Man, Get Low, Flipped, Middle Men, Twelve, Animal Kingdom, Mesrine, Never Let Me Go, Jack Goes Boating, Leaves of Grass, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Buried, Nowhere Boy, Stone, Tamara Drewe, Carlos, Conviction, Hereafter, Fair Game, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, I Love You Phillip Morris, Black Swan, Frankie and Alice, The Tempest, Casino Jack, Rabbit Hole, Somewhere, Another Year, Biuitiful, Blue Valentine.

Okay, that’s out of the way. All that listing…now, what we’re going to do is immediately strike off certain movies. We’re going to do this like fractions. Immediately off the top, canceling out are sequels, franchises (Iron Man, Potter, Twilight) and “like” films that occur in both years. You know how like dissolves like? That’s right, we just brought chemistry up in this bitch. For instance, the Ice Cube “Hood” comedy from each year, the Tyler Perry movies, the bad women’s picture of January like Bride Wars and When in Rome, the “urban” romance like Just Wright and Not Easily Broken, the Platinum Dunes remake/raping of a horror franchise (depending on which side of the fence you fall on), the requisite bad Heigl movie(s) of the year, those throwaway horror movies/exorcism films (you know what I’m talking about, Ringo), the “spoof” movie of the year, the Nicholas Sparks movie of the year…all those, come right out. This will really be a cut to remember. They happen out every year, so let’s not waste time with them. Notice how every single one of these occurs on both lists. All you need to do is Look Closer, and you’ll see how Hollywood is 85% repetition with slight variation. We’re also going to just get rid of the limited releases. We don’t care about them, and neither does Hollywood. I actually own more of the limited releases on DVD than I do the wide releases, but I’m not the American public. So, while they’re often the better films, they’re not what define the year in the sense we’re discussing. They have to go. They will be missed.

Reboots and such will be allowed to stay. Star Trek and Piranha 3D barely count as sequels. The only gray area seems to be Angels & Demons, but we’ll consider that both a sequel and franchise, half of each, which, adds up to a full shove out the door. One last thing that comes off the list…Pixar films and Disney films. We get one a year and they’re on their own level of comparison. Not part of this equation.

Now what we’re going to do is some divide and conquer: we’re going to separate our lists by genre/category. For example:

Start with the obvious — blockbusters and films meant to start franchises (non-animated).

2009: Dragonball, Star Trek, Land of the LostG-Force, G.I. Joe, 2012, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes.

2010: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia, The A-Team, Jonah Hex (I think. It’s hard to know exactly what anyone was thinking with that movie), The Last Airbender, Predators, The Sorcerer’s ApprenticeSalt, Tron: Legacy, Gulliver’s Travels.

Interesting, is it not? This looks skewed, but, the reason it’s so 2010-heavy is because 2009 had an almost unprecedented amount of sequels and franchise films in it. 2009 was the year they were like, “Jesus, how many fucking sequels can you put out?” So, here, this year was Hollywood trying to come up with new shit to turn into franchises. Which year did better? Aside from the two that failed miserably, and one which wasn’t great (but was awesome in its terribleness), but still made a lot of money, 2009 was pretty fucking efficient in churning out good, non-sequel blockbusters. This year? It’s like they threw out anything they could. And 90% of them failed, didn’t they? I’m sure we’ll be forced to endure sequels to some of those movies, but still, it’s clear 2010 failed on almost every big-budget level, all the way down to The A-Team (which was actually the best of the bunch there), losing to a Karate Kid remake.

What we can conclude from this: Hollywood is trying to create new franchises, but are trying too hard to appeal to as many people as possible. All of these movies made requisite money, but not as much as they were supposed to (I’m talking 2010 here). The only legit hits I can count here are Clash of the Titans (which still suffered from shitty 3D conversion and the fact that it was boring as fuck), and Last Airbender, which was one of those, everyone knew it sucked but still wondered how it made so much money. I still don’t think anyone has answers. These seem to me like the last of a dying breed. Let me stay on point though by saying why 2010 sucked as opposed to 2009. Because, they tried something new by using new stuff in the old formula. And because they didn’t let anyone with a distinctive enough style take hold of any of those films (except the A-Team, which is why it was the most fun. And even Mike Newell knows what he’s doing, despite not having a strong style, which is why some of the character stuff between Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton worked in Prince of Persia). Let’s put it this way — do you think Sorcerer’s Apprentice would have been as lifeless if Michael Bay directed it? There’s a reason his films have a character to them. The problem is, Hollywood is still trying to control the franchises. Avatar, 2012, and Sherlock Holmes all worked because their directors were firmly in command of the material and put their unique spin on things. Now, 2012 is sort of the “one of these things is not like the other” on this list, but Roland Emmerich knows how to make a disaster film. From Independence Day to The Day After Tomorrow to 2012, the man has made his own trilogy, and they’ve all been at least entertaining (if you think they haven’t been, compare them to some of the other films that came out this year. Which would you rather watch?). This is like his Spider-Man trilogy. Sort of. You got your first one, and then you have to ratchet it up from there, until the third one comes, and you just throw in all the ridiculous shit because the audience is already along for the ride. It’s not a perfect analogy, but you get what I’m going for. 2012 works, even if Cusack outruns the apocalypse in a limo. It’s fun. That’s what he brings to the table. All the dude that directed Tron bought was an ass to pound all that product placement into. So, 2010 sucked because the big movies had no personality.

Next — Animated films:

2009: Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens, Battle for Terra, 9, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Astro Boy, A Christmas Carol, Planet 51.

2010: How to Train Your Dragon, Marmaduke (?), Despicable Me, Alpha and Omega, Legend of the Guardians, Megamind, Yogi Bear.

Tough call, here. Both had standout films. I might even give the edge to 2010 here. However, from a business standpoint, only 3 of those 2010 movies worked. The rest are flops. Last year, only 3 movies really needed to make their money back. The rest were either smaller budget or artistically inclined, like Coraline. However, this is such a small corner of the market, the fact that the animated films are getting better (theoretically) do not affect the overall picture. Though I will say, 2010 animateds experimented with story, while 2009 were clearly the more visual of the bunch (as a whole). However, animated films tend to be ahead of the pack in terms of correcting problem areas, though essentially this all comes down to Dreamworks and their never-ending stream of terrible movies. Pop culture references do not equal humor. But, as far as why 2010 sucked, this category is a wash. It wasn’t because of the animated movies.

Next — fuck it, let’s take out all the bullshit thrillers, crime films, rom coms, kids movies, action movies, and boil this list down the meat and testicles of what we’re getting at. I’ve lost my attention span on this. We don’t really need me to fuck this thing six ways from Sunday. We get the point. They’re all essentially going to be variations on the same theme.

So, having taken out all the bullshit (and all the films I’ve talked about already), we’re left with two lists of what I call the “major films” of the year. These are films that I think best represent what the year in film was, and are mixtures of every end of the spectrum. From Roy to Biv. Not Justin to Kelly.

Here’s my 2009 list:

Notorious, Paul Blart, Taken, He’s Just Not….Yeah, That, Push, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Watchmen, Duplicity, I Love You Man, Knowing, Adventureland, Observe and Report, 17 Again, State of Play, The Soloist, Drag Me to Hell, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Hangover, The Proposal, Year One, Public Enemies, Brüno, (Un)Funny People, Julie & Julia, District 9, The Goods, Time Traveler’s Wife, Inglourious Basterds, Extract, The Informant!, Jennifer’s Body, Surrogates, The Invention of Lying, Whip It, Zombieland, Couples Retreat, Law Abiding Citizen, Where the Wild Things Are, Amelia, The Box, The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Blind Side, Ninja Assassin, Old Dogs, Brothers, Everybody’s Fine, Invictus, It’s Complicated.

And here’s my 2010 list:

Youth in Revolt, The Book of Eli, Edge of Darkness, Dear John, Valentine’s Day, The Wolfman, Shutter Island, Cop Out, Alice in Wonderland, Green Zone, Repo Man, Hot Tub Time Machine, Date Night, Kick-Ass, The Losers, Robin Hood, MacGruber, Get Him to the Greek, Splice, The Karate Kid, Knight and Day, Grown Ups, Inception, Charlie St. Cloud, Dinner for Schmucks, The Other Guys, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Piranha 3D, The American, Going the Distance, Machete, Devil, Easy A, The Town, You Again, Let Me In, The Social Network, Secretariat, Red, Due Date, Morning Glory, Skyline, Unstoppable, The Next Three Days, Burlesque, Faster, Love and Other Drugs, The Tourist, The Fighter, How Do You Know, True Grit.

What I see from these lists are very specific things. Now, with what’s left, one would look at these lists and go, “Well 2010 is clearly the better year.” That’s what I want you to think. Why does it seem that way?

If you take a look at those films you’re looking at as the “better” films, you’ll notice that most, if not all, of them are “auteur” films. That is, they are films that were clearly made by one person (or two), with a single vision uniting them. True Grit is a Coen brothers film. The Social Network is a Fincher/Sorkin film, Scott Pilgrim is an Edgar Wright movie. These are clearly their movies and no one else’s. Inception — who else could have made that movie? Not Shawn Levy, I’ll tell you that.

Remember when I said last time how the big budget films had no personality? Well, factor out all the auteur films, and that’s what you’re left with. No doubt these auteur films are hands down better than last year. But, those films aren’t what’s going to fill out a year. What fills out a year are all those other films. If you notice, almost none of these auteur films were not released until July at the earliest. And even then, most of them did not show up until October. Last year, I had 12 movies that could potentially make my year end top 10 list by the end of the summer. This year I barely made 5 (barely). That’s disgusting.

The two things I want to point out in regards to why 2010 sucked so much are: the complete lack of effort into those movies that weren’t designed to garner awards attention (because no one could have expected The Social Network to make that kind of bank. No way that was green lit for that purpose. The movies meant to make box office are the ones that sucked), which by extension leads to the problem — the huge gap between the “awards” film and the “mass market entertainment.”

You know that you’re going to get better films come the end of the year. Oscar films are always a step up from everything else. That’s not the problem.

This is why Inception is such an important film for this year. It’s a brilliant marriage of consumer filmmaking and auteur filmmaking. Now, it was a big too mass market for me — there were way too many obvious moments designed to pander to blockbuster audiences. (Perhaps this is also why the exposition seemed that much more pointed.) But still, this is a formula studios need to take for every film, not just the blockbuster. What they do is, aim to make their same films — the rom coms, the urban romance, the January exorcism movie — but what you do is hire people to make them who have distinct visions, who know enough about filmmaking to sidestep, or at least make interesting, all those stock situations Hollywood feels its audience needs to see. Look at Shutter Island — here is a movie that is not original in any way, except for the fact that it was directed by Martin Scorsese. Scorsese plays with the genre conventions. So, that “twist” that comes at the end, while obvious to anyone paying attention, is also not as contrived because of the way he makes it play out. (Let’s also point out that the final moment of the film, that Inception-ending moment, was pulled off a lot better. Leo liked to get ambiguous this year, didn’t he?)

If you put a little more effort into the little films, everything seems elevated. Without it, everything seems lifeless, and it looks like all your effort went into your Oscar films and you couldn’t give a fuck about the rest. But movies come out every week, Hollywood. No matter how much better this year’s Oscar films were than last year’s (and they were. Last year you barely had enough films to nominate ten for Best Picture. I mean, District 9 and The Blind Side? Really, Hollywood? This year you got 15 that can theoretically make it), if the pile of garbage they’re sitting on is so high, it doesn’t matter.

And that’s why 2010 sucked so much. Too much garbage. Just because we’re having an amazing Oscar season doesn’t make me forget the ten months that came before it.

But, like I said last time, maybe we’re trending upward. So, only way to find out for sure is to preview the films that are coming out this year. Which is what the next few days are going to be. I’m going to preview every wide release that is currently scheduled to come out this year (two months at a time). Then we’ll really see what’s goin’ on.

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