5 Complaints About Movies That Have Been Going On FOREVER
Everything was better back in the day. Food was more delicious before we learned to fear and despise trans fats, the most delicious of all fats. Cars were better before we bogged them down with frivolous features like safety belts and emissions standards. And movies -- oh man, they were so good back in the day, before we learned that computers could perfectly render the Hulk's butt down to the smallest green pimple. But were they? Were they truly? We're not sure, seeing as how a lot of our complaints about modern cinema go back far longer than you'd think ...
Product Placement Is As Old As Cinema
Right as you're trying to lose yourself in the new Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker breaks your suspension of disbelief by doing a search on goddamn Bing, which nobody has ever used.
At least, not for searches they could show in Spider-Man movie.
But rampant product placement predates the talkies. The 1920 Buster Keaton silent film The Garage was one of the first perpetrators of egregious product placement, displaying the logos for Zerolene Oil and Red Crown Gasoline so prominently that even newspapers -- champions of capitalism that they were -- publicly condemned him for it.
Because nothing makes oil, gas, and tires look awesome like the car using them falling apart in five seconds.
And in Wings, the first movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture, there's an awkwardly long scene in which two guys stare at a Hershey bar for like 20 seconds.
Even the great Stanley Kubrick wasn't immune to the thralls of ad revenue. In The Shining, those scenes in the pantry feature dozens of packages of Libby's, Heinz, Kellogg's, and Maxwell House -- the logos all neatly turned toward the camera.
All work and no flakes makes Tony a dull tiger.
Even classics like It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and The Day The Earth Stood Still were loaded with the strategic placement of brands like Coke, the Yankees, and National Geographic. Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth, released in 1952, was found to have 19 instances of product placement -- that's only two fewer than Independence Day, and seven more than The Dark Knight. So one famous moment should've gone:
"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille"
*Camera zooms in on can of Frankie Beenz Franks 'N Beans, lingers there for an uncomfortable length of time.*
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man Was The Batman V. Superman Of 1943
Freddy Vs. Jason. Alien Vs. Predator. Batman V. Superman. Next out of the gate, G.I. Joe will be going head-to-head with the Micronauts. And for a while, it was looking like the guys from 21 Jump Street would be joining the Men In Black. No, really.
Whenever a big-budget crossover comes out, audiences flock to the theaters, initially excited to witness the last dying gasps of two belabored franchises, until they touch butt to seat and the death rattle starts playing. But disappointing franchise crossover experiments date back to 1943. Universal Pictures had already made dozens of movies starring classic horror monsters when some bright studio guy thought, "Hey, why don't we make them fight?" The result was Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
While both ignore the Apathetic Lady sitting there wondering what Dracula's up to.
And much like with Batman V. Superman, fans were pumped right up until the moment they saw the tepid final result. According to a New York Times review by Bosley Crowther (the most 1940s newspaperman name possible), the studio used a weak narrative excuse to bring the monsters together, spent the entire movie building up to it, and when they finally fought, it wound up being nothing but a "little tussle." That sounds awfully familiar.
Wait until they figure out their moms have the same name.
Crowther goes on to sarcastically suggest that Universal's next movie should team the monsters up with the East Side Kids (that classic franchise!). His prediction didn't end up being far from the truth, because Universal eventually made Abbott and Costello part of the expanded Monsters universe.
There wouldn't be a bigger Expanded Universe joke until Marvel gave us Hawkeye.
Oh, and by the way, thanks to the current explosion in popularity of these team-ups, Universal is currently trying to do the exact same thing again. Probably without Abbott And Costello this time. Although ... the Minions are also a Universal property. We're just throwing that out there.
Sequels And Remakes Have Always Plagued Hollywood
You've heard people complain that "Hollywood is out of ideas these days." And by "people," we mean us. But if Hollywood is in fact out of ideas, then it's been that way for a long time. In 1933, RKO Pictures was eager to capitalize on their hit King Kong, and rushed out a sequel as fast as they could put one together. Which turned out to be eight months.
It would've taken a real Kong longer to make an actual son.
Son Of Kong hit theaters less than a year after the original, apparently out of fear that the original would no longer be "fresh in moviegoers' minds." The sequel was pretty much more of the same -- another woman takes another voyage to Skull Island and befriends another giant gorilla. This time, aspects of comedy were added. The film's writer, Ruth Rose, openly admitted that her philosophy when making the film was "if you can't make it bigger, make it funnier."
And if you can't do that, at least make it funnier-looking.
Then in 1977, the first King Kong remake hit theaters, and The New York Times published an article by prolific critic Vincent Canby lamenting that Hollywood was utterly out of ideas, beating list-based comedy websites to the punch by several decades.
The third-worst thing to happen to the World Trade Center.
"Moviemakers love to get their hands on what they call the 'pre-sold' property," he wrote, "which is usually a best-selling book or a hit play, something that the paying public already has heard of advance of the film version." He then goes on to wonder if anyone would even dare to remake classics like Casablanca and Hitchcock's Notorious. Since then, Hollywood has found a way to do both ... though they got away with it by changing the titles to Cabo Blanco (really) and Mission: Impossible 2 (well, sort of).
Critics Thought Metropolis Was The Transformers Of Its Time
Today, Fritz Lang's 1927 epic science fiction blockbuster Metropolis is widely regarded one of the greatest movies ever made. Back in 1927, it was definitely the most expensive movie ever made, and that's about it. The critics were not impressed. Famous sci-fi author and Martian invasion faker H.G. Wells, in particular, gave it one of the most savage reviews ever published.
Anthropomorphic robots are hacky garbage compared to millions of aliens croaking over a head cold, apparently.
In an epic 3,000-word rant for The New York Times titled "Metropolis -- The Silliest Film," Wells trashes every aspect of the movie, going on to say, "Never for a moment does one believe any of this foolish story; for a moment is there anything amusing or convincing in its dreary series of strained events. It is immensely and strangely dull. It is not even to be laughed at. There is not one good-looking nor sympathetic nor funny personality in the cast; there is, indeed, no scope at all for looking well or acting like a rational creature amid these mindless, imitative absurdities. The film's air of having something grave and wonderful to say is transparent pretense. It has nothing to do with any social or moral issue before the world or with any that can ever conceivably arise. It is bunkum and poor and thin even as bunkum."
Bunkum!? Let's not say things we can't back, H.
Yet another NYT review praised the film for its technical achievements, but hated its story. "It is a technical marvel with feet of clay," it claimed, "a picture as soulless as the manufactured woman of its story." The New Yorker hated it even more, calling it "laid on with a terrible Teutonic heaviness, and an unnecessary amount of philosophizing in the beginning."
Whatever, dude. At least you didn't have to see Shia go to robot heaven.
In contrast, Roger Ebert would later praise it as one of his favorites, "one of those films without which many others cannot be fully appreciated." Who knows, maybe critics will look back on Transformers the same way in a hundred years or so, when the majority of films are made stupidly, for stupid people.
Early Cinema Hated Sound And Assumed It Was A Passing Fad
The worst thing Hollywood does is push new gimmicks on us in place of good storytelling. Slap on your 3D glasses, folks, because it's time for Avatar 2: Avatarded. But this complaint goes all the way back. The first film innovation to earn the ire of audiences and filmmakers alike was sound. It took decades for people to warm up to the idea of hearing actors talk. As far back as the 1890s, inventors like Thomas Edison were trying to make a camera that incorporated audio, but nobody would pay for it because it was thought to be such a stupid idea.
Edison turning his sound films into whatever the hell this is probably didn't help, either.
When filmmakers finally started experimenting with "talkies," it was a nightmare for the studios. For one thing, before sound, there was no reason whatsoever to be quiet on set. The crew talked amongst themselves, the director shouted his commands during the scene, and multiple films could be shot in the same room simultaneously. When sound was introduced, the entire on-set culture had to change. To say nothing of how actors now had to remember lines and deliver them -- two things they never learned how to do in acting school.
"So, you never want to buy hookers at the same place you get your cocaine--"
Audiences weren't impressed, either. People complained about headaches, just as they did when 3D became mainstream. And being quiet in the theater was an alien concept, too, since you could carry on a conversation with the person next to you without worrying about missing any plot points. Now you had to shut up at the movies, which nobody wanted to do. (Wasn't the cinema supposed to be a social occasion?)
Some actors' careers were ruined by talkies. When John Gilbert, the famed romantic lead of the Silent Era, uttered the line "I love you," audiences burst out laughing. Other actors were ruined by their silly accents, which was career poison back in the days before a certain musclebound Austrian gun-stabbed the xenophobia right out of us.
Gilbert was a total buttervoice.
According to at least one critic, talkies were an annoying fad that was doomed to failure. He suggested that they should be called "dummies" instead, and that "The majority of films in the future will be made stupidly for stupid people."
Huh. That attitude sounds strangely familiar ...
Ben Veatch makes films for his own production comedy, Postmodern Palooza, and with his college media group, Feng Shuad. Follow his Twitter here, please -- he's desperate for attention. Lesley Wesley had an existential crisis while writing this bio. Follow her descent into madness on Twitter at @fuzzyChub.
For more things that are older than proverbial dirt, check out 6 Modern-Day Tech Advances (That Your Grandparents Had) and 6 Badass 'Modern' Weapons (Are Way Older Than You Think).
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