A bit of synchronicity for this post. Here's a recent article from the LA Times about how work has dwindled for screenwriters. The WGA made half of a good move in meeting with the studio heads. The other half, though, is that they need to meet with PODs and producers and other production entities, because that's where a lot of this abuse is taking place. If Warner Bros rightly wants writers to deliver material on time (really, people, DELIVER YOUR GODDAM SCRIPTS ON TIME), then they should reciprocate and pay writers on time. Writers rarely get paid on time. It usually takes several months for a paycheck to arrive. So the WGA needs to buckle down on this.
As you can see from the article, producers are taking advantage of the ratio of writers to work to make writers jump through hoops. As far as I'm concerned, it takes FAR more work to come up with an entire pitch than it does to just write the fucking script. But producers and executives remain obtuse about this. It happens in TeeVee, too, where now writers are expected to have entire stories broken just to pitch an idea to a studio. It's like they think that because a document is only two pages long, it doesn't take as much work as a full outline or a script. Only it DOES. You STILL have to break the story, which is the lion's share of the work. And the same goes for features, where executives and producers are given the luxury of hearing full pitches in-between their massages and fantastic lunches, and then picking which one they like best. That's horrible. To put it in perspective, that would be like somebody going for a job interview and being asked to do 75% of the job for free, so the employer can pick and choose who he wants for the job. Would anybody in any other industry stand for this?
This all falls on executives and producers who don't have the balls to make a decision. Because of the corporate culture (I've talked about this before), everybody is scared to death to take a chance because a wrong decision means they will lose their jobs. They know this because they see it happen, and they know that there must always be a scapegoat when you're talking about a corporation. This means that everything becomes increasingly conservative, and it's trickled down to the writers, as the article shows.
But "conservative" in Hollywood apparently means shitty. Studios don't understand that this is a speculative business. Corporations shouldn't be involved in these kinds of businesses because that's not how they operate. So these studios can only make sure-winner kinds of films, which means movies based on board games and comic books and all that. Shit comes out, and mostly America goes to see it. If America doesn't go to see it, then the source material gets blamed. See how that works?
But what if a Hollywood studio makes an ORIGINAL film that (GOD FORBID) isn't based on Chutes & Ladders, and it fails? Who gets blamed? Well, the people who are in it, or the people who made it. Because in a corporate culture, SOMEBODY MUST ALWAYS PAY. I'd like to blame other people. I'd like to blame the film critics and the American public for the perceived failure of Knight and Day. I hear your eyes rolling, gentle readers. But did you SEE the film?
The moronic David Denby calls it "jumpy, unmotivated and senseless." Wall Street Journal flack Joe Morgernstern opines "Knight and Day woke me up to just how awful some summer entertainments have become. It isn't that the film is harmful, except to moviegoers' wallets and movie lovers' morale, but that it is truly phenomenal for the purity of its incoherence." Which sounds like an apt description of that review, you pretentious asstard. Interesting that some of the more "literary" magazines and newspapers just turned up their noses, like they were expecting one of their precious indie films and not the kind of movie Hollywood used to make twenty times a year (looking at you, tiresome Village Voice).
And the always interminable Lisa Schwartzbaum, who apparently just likes to her herself talk (the review should be about the FILM, sweetheart... not about you), completely missed the point of the film. Which says something about a person who can't parse a summer romantic suspense comedy. But then it seems that most of these reviewers are looking for their negative hook, instead of actually reviewing the movie.
I find it interesting that many of the reviews are so dismissive of the fun this movie brings. What's the problem with entertainment actually being entertaining? Why must the word "fun" be used to denigrate a movie that is trying to be exactly that? I mean, mission accomplished, Knight and Day. Fun, clever, inventive, twisty, romantic. And the locations are exactly the kind of locations that this kind of movie needs. It's over-the-top spy suspense. This kind of movie used to be okay to make, but now it isn't? Are the "film critics" so beaten down by the shit the studios churn out that they have already formed their opinions before seeing the movie? Wow, that can't be it, right??
It's not like the automatic bashing of a film is new. I remember when every critic lambasted The Thirteenth Warrior. I guess because it was an easy film to dismiss. But the only reviewer who went, "Hey, hold on a second now" was Owen Glieberman. And he was absolutely right.
You know what else is different about Knight and Day? ONE writing credit. ONE. And it's not one of those "A-list" writers that keeps some executive's job safe. The writer of Knight and Day is Patrick O'Neill. According to IMDB, his only other writing credit was the show Dead Last, which none of you remember. It was basically Scooby Doo with ghosts. It was on the WB, and they didn't support it (shocker). Well, O'Neill brings that off-kilter brand of humor to this script. When people bemoan the lack of orginality in Hollywood and then they blame the writers, they do writers like O'Neill a disservice. I will go see anything O'Neill writes.
Of course, the guy taking the big hit for this is Tom Cruise. When you take a chance and make a movie that isn't based on a videogame or isn't a remake, then you're REALLY taking a chance. And that's weird, right? That making a movie based on a good script is now equated with taking a chance? Apparently, Tom Cruise is a total failure at the box office because this movie didn't do well. Since the studios seem to be mainly focused on promoting their game-show remakes in 3D, movies like Knight and Day just get buried. It's not Tom Cruise's fault that the movie didn't do well. It's America's fault, frankly. It's the fault of these stupid film critics who are so lame they can't even see fun when it's right in front of them. When you see this film, you remember how good Cruise is. He's a MOVIE STAR, and he doesn't need 3D to prove that.
But he's not alone here. Cameron Diaz is great, too, and so is the supporting cast. EVERYBODY in the film knows what movie they're making. It's patently obvious, but not to film critics, I guess. And James Mangold, the director, couldn't have done a better job here. He does two things marvelously -- he lets the actors create moments, especially early on. And he's got a fantastic sense of visual humor. Forget these music video hacks. Mangold should be the go-to guy for action comedy. He hit this nail right on the head. He did the script justice. The whole movie, in fact, exists because of the script. It's not an afterthought, like it is with every other movie you guys will go see because titans clash and all that bullshit. Did you go see Transformers, but you won't go see Knight and Day? Then you're an idiot if you complain about how bad movies are.
But wait! Some critics actually WATCHED the film and liked it. Here's Kenneth Turan's even-handed review, where he actually talks about WHAT HE SAW UP THERE ON THE SCREEN. I know. Crazy, right??
America, you failed completely. You don't deserve to see anything good.