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Filmism.net Dispatch June 9, 2014

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I want to talk about screenwriters and stardom. Make no mistake, there are star screenwriters just like there are star actors and directors. It's worth remembering some names that burned hot and bright but disappeared just as quickly.

Remember Paul Haggis? When his film Crash upset the 2005 Academy Awards to win best picture, suddenly his name was the one to have on your production. His name rode high. He wrote Million Dollar Baby too, Best Picture winner the following year. Suddenly he was rewriting for no less than James Bond, doing touch-ups on the scripts for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace written by series regulars Robert Wade and Neal Purvis.

Then the slowdown came. He wrote Clint Eastwood's parallel Iwo Jima movies, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, neither of which made much money despite the Hollywood royalty behind them (including Steven Spielberg as producer). A few years later and Haggis' name was on Russell Crowe thriller The Next Three Days as writer and director, a tepid movie that only returned a little over one and a half times its $35m budget. He's got a bunch of projects in development, but Haggis might already be yesterday's news.

Another example is Diablo Cody. What's a better bio narrative than a stripper-turned screenwriter? The attention on her threatened to overshadow the release of Juno, her first big project, and her star didn't even last as long as Haggis'. Her next movie Jennifer's Body looked like it was going to tear up the balance sheets (Megan Fox as a demon-possessed killer, including a nude scene?). Audiences didn't agree, only just putting the movie in the black worldwide.

You can argue Young Adult sold on the strength of a hot director (Jason Reitman) as well as Cody, but she's now in straight-to-video hell thanks to her latest movie Paradise, about a young girl who renounces Christianity after being badly burned in a plane crash and finds herself among misfit friends in Las Vegas. It's made so little money (and only been released in a couple of territories) it doesn't seem like anyone is even counting.

All I'm saying is if I was Bob Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Terry Rossio or Ted Elliot right now, I'd be putting some money into bonds or property rather than buying coke to snort off the bellies of centrefold models (if that's what they were thinking of doing, that is). Sure you've been behind names like Transformers, Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean and Spider-Man, but remember that guy Shane Black who was behind the Lethal Weapon movies? You never hear from him anymore, do you?

...Oh, right.

In other news, after a wait of 62 years (although my excuse was I didn't exist when it was made) I finally caught up with an old Hollywood staple, Singin' in the Rain. If it's one of those movies you know is out there just because of the long shadow it casts over the golden years but you've never actually seen it, you're going to look at 2011 hit The Artist in a brand new light.

I sat through the mildly-better-than-the-original The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but with every one of these cookie cutter comic book behemoths that arrives, my estimation of and patience with the genre as a whole slips a bit more.

One of the movies I was looking forward to the most this year thanks simply to the strength of the idea was Transcendence. All the negative press, bad reviews and dire box office performance had me expecting a pile of celluloid excrement, but I was more pleasantly surprised them that.

I was also very excited to see Nymphomaniac: Vol I (that sentence could have been worded better), because I'm a big Lars von Trier fan. Love him or hate him, he still does things nobody else does.

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