Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Devil’s Candy


The Salon.com headline for Andrew O’Hehir’s review of the movie, The Counselor is, “Meet the Worst Movie Ever Made.” Of course, not everyone will think the movie is terrible, but the review is worth reading, I think. You can find it here.

The review makes a lot of points about how, “the talented and laurel-bedecked people behind it made exactly the movie they wanted to,” and how no else but artists involved (Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott) are to blame.

Over the years my small amount of peripheral involvement in the movie and TV business has given me a lot more respect for the “suit,” -- the producers, network and studio people -- than most popular accounts of the business had me believing they deserved.

And I think a lot of this comes down to what the Salon review referred to as Hollywood’s Devil’s Candy:

“The magical combination of artistic legitimacy, cultural currency and commercial success. Everybody in Hollywood chases it and as in Julie Salamon’s terrific book of that title, about a big-budget failure of another era (Brian De Palma’s film version of “Bonfire of the Vanities”), almost nobody gets hold of it.”

A balance is necessary. We’ve all complained about movies (and books and music and whatever) that have gone off the rails by chasing too much commercial success. For some reason it’s usually regarded as more worthy to go off the rails chasing more artistic legitimacy but the results are usually the same.

Or is that wrong? Is it better to go all out trying to tell exactly the story you want?


Dana King said...

I'm inclined to say it's better to fail doing things how you want them to be done, but there are inherent limits. Director's cuts are rarely significantly better than the film released in the theaters, and are sometimes significantly worse. APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX is a prime example. (Sometimes I thnk directors need to adopt the novelist's mindset of killing one's darlings.)

That being said, I can see why the artists would want more freedom: they're going to get blamed for a failure, no matter whose fault it was. Speculation may be made, but it's the director/writer/actor who will carry the stigma of a colossal failure.

I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but I have a lot of that attitude. If a novel I wrote fails, it's me who may not be able to get another contract, therefore it's going to be me who mucked it up. I can live with failure. What I wouldn't handle well would be to read reviews that discuss where the book fails and know I changed that at someone else's behest.

Shaun Ryan said...

Balance for sure. It's the eternal tightrope walk. People won't hear what you have to say if you don't sell tickets or books.

The unfortunate and often overriding factor in the equation was summed up nicely by Jimmy Buffet:

I've got a PBS mind in an MTV world.

Shaun Ryan said...

Oh, and Mr. McFetridge, I thought you might like to know that clicking on your photo in the left column leads not to your website or blog, but to this:

How Can You Increase The Size Of Ones Male Member Along With Workouts -- Important Male Member Increasing The Size Of Tricks For Optimum Gains!

Now, maybe you know this, your sense of humor wickedly barbed, but I thought I'd better mention it, just in case.

It did get me wondering about the optimum weight to use for a complete penile workout routine...

John McFetridge said...

Thanks for the tip on the link, Mr. Ryan. I guess that's what happens when you stop paying for a site.

I hope they're getting more hits on it than I did.

And thanks for the Jimmy Buffet quote, that's a good one.

Shaun Ryan said...

No problem, John.

OK to call you John?

And Jimmy is a treasure trove of quotes, man. What happens to the mind when dwelling in Margaritaville...

Ricky Bush said...

Have seen "The Counselor", I have to agree with O'Hehir's assessment. Someone needed to read McCarthy's screenplay before committing such talent to the mix. McCarthy's novels are a mixed bag, some I feel no editor dared to suggest to the King that it needed a bit of tweaking. I'm guessing the same applied to this movie...no one's going to mess with the genius' words.