Filmism.net Dispatch June 9, 2024

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I asked a question in a recent Filmism.net Dispatch that I haven't seen anyone talk about, one I did my best to sell an article about to various movie media in my day job as a reporter (and failed miserably to do).

To whit; what happens when there's no box office? In a fast-approaching future when most movies are streamed rather than viewed in cinemas, what, I asked, will the arbiter of quality/a high profile be when we're not talking about how successful a movie was?

I was reminded of it recently while putting a couple of reviews on Filmism.net because of the field where I link to the film's Boxofficemojo.com record, a website owned by IMDB.com (and in turn, Amazon) that reports on a movie's financial performance in various regions.

When I started Filmism.net in 2001 every movie had one. Now, so many are going direct to consumers via streaming I realised I'm leaving that field blank as often as I'm putting a link in it. As time goes on I'll use it less and less and then eventually, never. What, indeed, will happen when there's no box office?

In other news, I also wanted to highlight a recent phenomenon that's overturned a very entrenched movie trend. Remember when movies based on video games were guaranteed to suck? Once upon a time we had Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Silent Hill, Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, a whole Resident Evil franchise, Wing Commander, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin's Creed, two attempts at Tomb Raider , Need For Speed, Warcraft, Bloodrayne, Postal and a host of others. What did they have in common? They were all, as the inimitable Scots say, shite.

Roger Ebert famously ruffled feathers when he said videogames could never be art. He made a good case (a writer as good as Ebert couldn't help but do so), but even a Gen Xer like me bought up in the 8 bit Atari era when videogames indeed weren't art has to disagree now.

Because something's happened to videogames as well as adaptations of them in the years since Ebert's essay. Tellingly, the first videogame adaptation we'd think worthy of awards, The Last of Us, came from the world of series and not movies, and that might be the first clue about what's different.

Maybe, as a series, it had time to tell the story as fully as the game did, paying enough attention to well-written, well-performed characters we cared about.

Isn't that just what we've seen so far in Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Dune , one of the best sci-fi series on the big screen of the last decade? David Lynch's infamous 1984 attempt was dire for a lot of reasons, not least because it tried to cram way too much into a two hour film.\

Villeneuve has made two films and a third has been announced as I write this, so he's giving Frank Herbert's weighty themes and story room to breathe.

Maybe The Last of Us did the same, a somewhat easy lift because the game already executed qualities like story, character and writing so well. The HBO series was shepherded to the screen (co-written, in many cases) by Neil Druckmann, the brains trust behind the game.

His co-writer was Craig Mazin, who'd blown most critics and audiences away with his work on Chernobyl. The only surprise would have been if it wasn't any good.

Maybe back when games were about thrills, gore or mood and much simpler stories (and some never really had them, just a vague premise) they didn't lend themselves to successful adaptations because they were never really about decent dialogue or characters.

Ebert died in 2013, the year The Last of Us was released, but I wonder if he might have changed his mind if he'd played it, or watched it being played...

I remember a news story forever ago that some producer or studio was developing an adaptation of the sombre, haunting Shadow of the Colossus. A bunch of directors came and went and the last mention I could find was that Andy ( It , The Flash) Muschietti was attached, but that's already 10 years back.

Now, if you need any further confirmation videogame adaptations are firmly (and finally) in the camp of quality cinema, A24, a production company synonymous with original and very human dramatic movies, is adapting the beloved 2019 blockbuster Death Stranding along with that game's feted creative director, Hideo Kojima.

So if none of this means the age of the dud videogame adaptation is over, I don't know what does.

On screens recently, I recommend Damien Chazelle's notorious flop Babylon. It's not perfect, but it's the very model of a director (and the studio behind him) taking a gigantic, exuberant swing, something we should all seek out more of in an age where moviemaking is increasingly risk averse and corporate.

If you're a fan of the French New Wave and love films inspired by Hollywood's Golden Age like Rififi, I also urge you to see Un Flic, a hard boiled thriller that's from the same film movement.

And if you have a soft spot for trashy, kitsch, straight-to-video monster movies from the 70s and 80s, you could do far worse than check out The Nest. Not only does it have at least one scene of very inventive body horror, it has more of a sense of humour and personality tham most movies in its class.

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