The best films ever, by genre | Film | guardian.co.uk
The greatest films of all time: download the data, as a spreadsheet | News | guardian.co.uk
The romance 25 | Film | guardian.co.uk
The crime 25 | Film | guardian.co.uk
The comedy 25 | Film | guardian.co.uk
Links to Genres will be added over the next week.
This was the event that got me interested in censorship. It is interesting to finally view those films deemed nasty – which also includes films dubbed nasty by the Media and action groups, such as The Exorcist and Clockwork Orange. There are some great films in the list, but these are for more interesting for the Low budget approach to film making that experiments with the process and influences mainstream cinema. The Flying bike footage in the forests of Endor from The Return of the Jedi? Same technique as used by Sam Raimi in The Evil Dead to show the spirits rushing through the forest – but Sam did it for $5!
It takes a team of talented financiers, writers, producers, directors, gaffers, film processors and editors a long time, a lot of thought and roughly the GDP of Tonga to make an idea into a turkey. So how does it all go wrong? Here – anonymously, for fear of jeopardising their careers – are some of Hollywood’s finest explaining why films, including some of theirs, go bad.
The test-screening process – in which studios show their most expensive films to focus groups and then change them accordingly – also has to take some of the blame for the artistic failure of his movie, says the screenwriter. “They’re going for the widest possible audience. So you end up having a movie that doesn’t offend anyone and which everyone doesn’t mind, instead of a movie some people love. But I never lost sight of the fact that I was happy to see it made.”
Would he be as happy to see, say, Brett Ratner attached to his next project, if it would guarantee a green light? He sighs. “I’ve reached the point where I’m lucky enough to say I’d be sad. The buck always stops with the director, in my experience. It’s a director’s medium.”
A producer responsible for what he admits were some less-than-stellar big-budget films is pragmatic about the process: “Films are not easy to get made. And a producer is constantly trying to get them off the ground. If there’s a director whose films show a profit, such as Michael Bay or Brett Ratner, and you can present that director as attached, then you may get the money to make your film.” And Bay and Ratner do make money, as both producers and directors: they have grossed almost a billion dollars each for films they’ve been attached to.
“It’s a business,” says the producer. “They’re not art films. We do sometimes employ brilliant screenwriters to do passes on things; some of the blockbuster scripts are actually great. But studio films are, for better or worse, made by a committee – it’s not the vision of one person. People you call ‘bad’ directors are good at working on big movies. They end up sitting in a room with a dozen people and they have to catch the ideas flying around and place them in the film. There’s not much you can do about it. It’s a complicated process.”
One director, responsible for well-received and Oscar-nominated films budgeted between $20m and $50m, sees such blockbuster-managers as failures, regardless of what the balance sheet shows.”They don’t really direct at all. A script is only a ticket for the journey; it’s not necessarily a map. If you have a director without any vision or understanding of the way film works, it’s going to be bad, no matter how good the script was.”
This particular director once asked for his name to be removed from a film after a clash of egos with a star, so unhappy was he with the finished product. But he now says he has learned to balance the urge to resist pressure from above with the fact that it’s futile to fight the star system. “The main character, played by the star, is the film,” he says. “If the director really gets on with the actor, has a shared vision, knows deep down that their job is to get the best possible performance out of that actor and they have respect for each other, then the collective efforts of those two minds goes a long way to making a good film. You can see it on the screen when that hasn’t happened.”
“It’s narcissism and power that ruin movies,” agrees one veteran publicist. Over three decades, she has seen plenty of those ego clashes between producers, directors and stars. “A lot of producers really want to direct. And if the director is someone who’s malleable, for whatever reason – maybe because he couldn’t get the thing greenlit for 10 years – the power of the producer can corrupt.”
She has seen stories and scripts and characters and performances – the very heart of the movie, in short – change beyond recognition on set. “Anything can prompt a rewrite or a reshoot,” she says. “It could be the director or producer’s wife calling to say, ‘I just read this new draft and you cut out that girl I thought was great,’ or, ‘You said my sister-in-law was going to have a part in the movie and you cut her scene out.’ It could be that the star felt the power had shifted to the co-star and wanted it back.”
When scripts are revised on set, they are colour-coded to avoid confusion. The first draft is white, the second blue, then pink, yellow, green, gold, salmon, cherry and then back to white again, referred to as double white. “I’ve seen scripts get to triple gold,” the publicist says. “They look like rainbows. The original screenplay? God only knows what that was.
“And once you’re finished shooting, there’s more. The stars put in their two cents in during the edit, the director puts in his two cents, the producers do the same. A bad editor can ruin a film. A great editor can take a movie and say, ‘You know what? The third act is the first act. Or the second half of that act is pointless.’ They can rescue it.
“There are so many variables. Making a good movie is like getting an ice sculpture out of a block of ice. There’s something beautiful in there, but it’s fragile and you have to find it.”
This publicist has worked with Michael Bay, and has seen him interact with those who pay his wages. So why does she think he gets hired despite the merit or otherwise of his movies? She thinks for a moment. “Michael is a good salesman,” she says. “He’s great in meetings. And he has great hair.”
This was a low budget Sci fi, one of a series of good films made on no budget by Black Film makers in the mid 80’s. It takes it’s influence from 1970’s funk acts (Sun Ra, Parliament, Funkadelic) who used the alien idea as a means to explore racism. Take a few hours, and watch!
You may recognise Joe Morton from T2.
Tim Burton is working on this at the moment – it is a motion capture film, and here are some of the early art designs.
The UK Film Council is facing a $33m (£22m) cut in lottery funding over the next five years as money is diverted away from film to pay for the London Olympics. The cuts will mean an expected 15% reduction in the amount of lottery money available to British film – a drop of around $6.5m (£4.4m) a year.
And note the running costs of UKFC, FYI
Next up – Paul Verhoeven remakes ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and Robb Zombie’s take on ‘The OSund of Music’…