A Conversation With John Gilpatrick

I’ve begun doing some collaborative work with a fellow blogger and Twitterer, John Gilpatrick. You can visit his blog, John Likes Movies, by going here. We’ve decided to do “conversations” every now and then. Discussions about current movie news, awards, or review movies we’ve both seen. It’s always going to be different, because it’s just a conversation. It’s not an in-depth interview of any kind. It’s simply the thoughts, ideas and insights of two guys who love movies, coming together to talk about movies. We hope to do this more in the future, to make this the first of many. I hope you all enjoy it. If so, please comment. Feedback is always a nice reward.

In this edition, we talk about a few things, including the recent decision by Sony concerning the Spider-Man movie franchise, the Oscars, and more specifically, Kathryn Bigelow’s seemingly inevitable win for Best Director on the horizon. Check out the full conversation after the jump.

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John: I know you brought up Spider-man last night and that seems to be the biggest news this week. What do you think about what’s going on?

Nathan:  Well, I have real issues with what they’re doing. Sony is only making another movie because they have to hold onto the property. If they don’t make any more Spider-Man movies, the rights go back to Disney/Marvel.

John:  I did not know that…that’s pretty sad. For me, it’s just this: why do you need to reboot a franchise that’s less than ten years old?

Nathan:  The whole reason is most likely money. Spider-Man is a hugely lucrative franchise. 1, 2 and 3 made billions of dollars for Sony. The hope, I would assume, is that they can sell tickets regardless of who’s doing the films, as long as the title is “Spider-Man.” They can’t very well continue the existing franchise without the original team, and furthermore, Sony had already planned to reboot the franchise after Spider-Man 4 anyway. They just wanted to give Raimi his due with one last film. It’s frustrating, though. The direction they’re going just seems so naive to me. They ignore the development that’s taken place in the previous films in order to make one that’s more “hip,” “gritty,” and “attractive” to younger audiences. As if Spider-Man wasn’t already. It seems as if the new Peter Parker is going to be some teenage hunk all the girl’s will love, a la Twilight or something, not the classic nerd we know and love.

John:  Yeah, it’s shit like this that makes me hate superhero movies. Besides Nolan’s batman, there hasn’t been one series that I feel like has been made for purely creative reasons. With Nolan, he had a story to tell. It just happened to have a superhero in it.

Nathan:  Well, remember, Nolan’s Batman had time between the older franchise and the reboot. That’s the difference we have here. Sony can’t lose the property, so they can’t just let the franchise sit on the shelf until ore creativity can be injected into it. So they rush to just get a movie out ASAP.

John:  I get that…it just sucks for anyone that’s not a 14 year old boy.

Nathan:  That’s why Raimi left, from the reports I’ve been reading. He wanted more time, and the studio was pressuring him too hard… Which they weren’t supposed to do after the clusterfuck of Spider-Man 3

John:  I think “clusterfuck” might be the best word to describe Spider-Man 3

Nathan:  Agreed. But you can’t do much about it. Frankly, Spider-Man 2 was wonderful, but 1 was just average, and 3 was terrible. I would prefer to just keep watching The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, which is by far the best interpretation of the character outside of the comics. And guess what? It takes place during Peter Parker’s high school years. We don’t need this new movie.

John:  We don’t… Sony executives do it sounds like.

Nathan:  Unfortunately, after Season 2, that show’s development and continuation is up in the air. Don’t know if it’ll continue.

John:  Maybe they’ll have a shitty third one too. The curse of three for Spidey.

Nathan:  Or maybe they’ll just go the way of The Fantastic 4 — make two shitty movies that make a lot of money… but then go further and make a third, even shittier movie. Screw it. Give me Iron Man 2. There’s a super hero movie I’m looking forward to.

John:  Yeah me too. I actually just saw the trailer for it not too long ago. It looks awesome. Mickey Rourke is such an inspired choice

Nathan:  I agree. I just hope it doesn’t let me down. Can’t get my hopes up too much.

John:  It’s dangerous. That’s why I try to avoid previews as much as possible, haha.

Nathan:  I love trailers. I just have to try to separate the trailer from my hopes for the movie. Trailers are so often unrepresentative of the actual film.

John:  You’re not kidding. Like Nine. Totally not like the trailer if you can believe that.

Nathan:  I haven’t seen Nine. But like most, I’m not going to see it until I’ve seen 8 1/2, and I still haven’t, so it might be a while.

John:  That’s a good call. I know people that have seen it that hate it because they don’t get it and I say, “Did you see 8 1/2?”  And most of the time they don’t know what that is. But it’s pretty clearly based on 8 1/2.  I mean I’m not purporting to say everyone else is wrong about it and I’m right (I think I’m the only person in the world who really liked it) but it’s not a big lavish musical like they make it seem.

Nathan: Haha, it’s always hard being in the minority, isn’t it?

John:  Yes it definitely is.

Nathan:  So what do you make of The Hurt Locker’s Oscar chances?

John:  I think Best Director is a done deal.  I mean when was the last time a woman was nominated?  And for a film that was loved this much?  I think Bigelow’s got it in the bag.

Nathan:  I think you’re right.

John:  I think the last time a woman was nominated was Sofia Coppolla.

Nathan:  Yeah. Was just about to say that. Lost in Translation. Before that it was Jane Campion for The Piano back in the early 1990s. And before that was Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties way back in 1976.

John:  So we’re saying in about a 15-20 year span there have been two, soon to be three, women nominated for Best Director.  The other two were up against Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg respectively…they had no chance.  When will they get another chance like this to award a woman?

Nathan:  I don’t know. But I think there are a couple of interesting things to note. Firstly, Bigelow deserves the award regardless of her sex. So despite the history-making in giving her the award, the fact that she’s a woman, I think, hardly has much to do with whether she deserves it. But I think it’s really interesting to look at the film she’s winning for. Bigelow is known as a director who tackles genres that are normally reserved for men. You wouldn’t expect many women to direct a film like The Hurt Locker. Or K-19: The Widowmaker. Or Near Dark.

John:  You’re absolutely right. It’s totally a man’s film.  I don’t even know if there was a woman in it.

Nathan:  Exactly. By contrast, something like The Piano, for which Campion was nominated, dealt so heavily with themes related to feminism. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Piano. It’s very good. But it’s so much about the entrapment of Holly Hunter’s main character. Her entrapment by an authoritarian man.

John:  Do you think that’s maybe why directors like Campion for Bright Star and Lone Scherfig for An Education have been largely absent this awards season?

Nathan:  I haven’t seen Bright Star, so I can’t judge it, but for Lone Scherfig, I might make that point.

John:  I mean Bright Star was a very good film.  It’s very feminine though.  It’s about love and it’s bright and the costumes are lavish and what not.

Nathan:  I think that it’s just difficult. Hollywood is still a man’s world as far as I know.

John:  I agree

Nathan:  And Oscar is still an old boy’s club to a large extent. We saw that from the conservative members back in ’05 toward Brokeback Mountain

John:  Many of them didn’t even see the film

Nathan:  Exactly

John:  So do you think someone other than Bigelow can win it?

Nathan:  If someone else could win, it’s Cameron. Look, the first people to award Titanic back in ’97 were the HFPA, the Golden Globes. The Academy then went on to award Titanic 11 Oscars, including Best Director.

John:  So maybe we’ll find out on Sunday what his chances might be

Nathan:  I think if Cameron and Avatar clean up on Sunday at the Golden Globes, we’re going to see a very different ballgame with the Oscars.

John:  I think you might be right. As much as I loved avatar, I’m not ready for it to be a done deal yet. I want to still be guessing come the Oscars… Like last year it wasn’t “Who’s gonna win?” But rather, “How many will Slumdog win?”  We haven’t had a truly open race since ’06.

Nathan:  That’s very true. Glad The Departed won that year, haha.

John:  Haha. Me too. And I guess from there I’ll say can The Hurt Locker dethrone Avatar?

Nathan:  Well, that’s the question I’ve been wondering myself. The Hurt Locker was seen by practically no one but the critics. It made $12 million in theaters. Normally a movie, no matter how good, doesn’t get that kind of attention if it makes so little money.

John:  Yeah, but I think the Academy will see it.

Nathan:  No film for decades has won Best Picture without making $100 million at the domestic box office, with three exceptions

John:  They might worry about their ratings or image or whatever if a film that small wins Best Picture

Nathan:  Crash, No Country For Old Men, and The Last Emperor, and The Last Emperor even made more than The Hurt Locker ($25 million). So the question is: can The Hurt Locker really overtake the juggernaut of Avatar? I think people are counting out Avatar too soon. That’s not to say I think Avatar should win. I think in the end I’m gonna side with Roger Ebert and say that if Avatar does win, it’s because it made billions of dollars, not because it’s a better movie.

John:  I completely agree with you and Ebert in that regard. Well, I think that question to a certain degree comes down to why did the academy expand to 10?  If it was to be more viewer friendly, then they’ll be in an avatar state of mind when voting.  If it was to recognize the “little films that could” then it could be The Hurt Locker.

Nathan:  The Hurt Locker just won the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture, by the way, so there’s another precursor under its belt.

John:  There you go…an Avatar night ends with a Hurt Locker win

Nathan:  Yep. Well, I think the thing is that the Academy will cover itself by nominating Avatar. People will tune in if Avatar is nominated, regardless of whether it wins. Best Picture is the last award of the night. People would have done the same if The Dark Knight had been nominated, even if it didn’t win.

John:  That’s true.

Nathan:  They just want more damn viewers. What I’m curious about is whether something like Star Trek can get a nomination in an expanded field.

John:  I talked about that on my blog a few days ago. I just don’t know… Avatar has got the sci-fi thing already, and I think District 9 is ahead of it in line for a nom. Most people (not me) think it’s a more accomplished film. No way in hell do three sc-fi films get in.

Nathan:  Oh yeah

John:  Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d bet on it.

Nathan:  It’s definitely down to Star Trek vs. District 9 for that slot.

John:  You don’t think something like 500 Days of Summer or The Messenger could sneak into that last slot?

Nathan:  I don’t know. Who’s seen The Messenger?

John:  I did! I did! Haha.

Nathan:  Other than you, of course. Mainstream audiences haven’t.

John:  Definitely not

Nathan:  If the Academy wants to abandon its entire purpose of expanding to 10 nominees (which is possible), then The Messenger could sneak in.

John:  See I’m not totally of the belief that they did this to bring in a lot of commercial movies. I think with five extra nominees they hoped for one big film to make it (Avatar) one, I’ll call it diverse film to get in (animated, doc, foreign… Up this year), and then just more films that they like… Small “indie” dramas.

Nathan:  I think they’d be stupid not to do what you’re saying. Which is why I hope something like Star Trek gets nominated. I think Avatar was always a pretty sure possibility of getting a nomination. With 5 nominees it would get a nomination.

John:  Yeah but still they didn’t know that when they made this decision. Avatar didn’t seriously come into the picture until mid-December, so I don’t think they’ll be like, “well Avatar doesn’t count, we need another one.”

Nathan:  Yeah, but what I’m looking at is the films that wouldn’t have been nominated without 10 nominees Avatar would have been nominated with 5 nominees, absolutely

John:  Yeah, definitely, but I think many of them have their quotas and Avatar will perfectly fill in that big blockbuster slot.

Nathan:  Maybe. I just think that with the expansion to 10 nominees, they should be looking at mainstream tastes. Star Trek wasn’t just a blockbuster success, though. It was one of the best-reviewed movies of the year.

John:  That’s a good point.

Nathan:  I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

John:  Yes we will. So should we wrap it up?

Nathan:  I guess so, haha. All Oscar talk

John:  I guess I’ll just ask: is there anything you plan to see this week?

Nathan:  I’m going to see Avatar again tomorrow (Saturday). See if it holds up. I’ve heard that it does, but I want to see for myself, and my family hasn’t seen it, so I’m going with them.

John:  Nice nice. For me, it definitely did. I’m gonna brace myself and see what happened to the Lovely Bones, haha!

Nathan:  Good luck. I’ve heard terrible things. But aside from movies in theaters, I’ve got some movies on my Netflix Queue. Older movies, but…

John:  Me too.

Nathan:  Awesome.

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