It's been a bad two weeks - and overall, a bad two years - for Hollywood.
Bea Arthur. Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. Billy Mays.
And today, the death of legendary supporting man Karl Malden. And that's just halfway through 2009. Thank [insert deity here] that Abe Vigoda is still alive.
The tragic loss of Heath Ledger. The passing of Star Trek Matriarch Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. King of Comedy Bernie Mac, entirely too soon. Marlon Brando's son Christian, killer though he was convicted as. Brad Renfro, sadly of the juice.
I really don't want to spend all day hunting down all of these people on Wikipedia, but there are many, many more to add to that list. All big names. Some old, some unfortunately young.
And with them is going the industry that made them all famous in one way or another. Hollywood itself, like the stars that seem to shine for such a short time in its limelight, is dying.
Years of rampant corporate consolidation has taken what was once a mecca of high-art and creative exposition into a watered-down, purely commercial cesspool of crap, with the occasional bright spot.
We have hacks like Michael Bay, who's taken a franchise that I love and turned it into a barely recognizable General Motors/Chevy commercial, full of nothing but the banal eye candy of special effects and explosions.
Don't get me wrong, I like special effects and explosions. But I also like my Transformers Generation One compatible. Let's get over ourselves already, people: Megatron is a HAND GUN. Wah fucking wah. And not having Frank Welker provide his voice alongside Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime is blasphemy. And I remember a time when Transformers told a pretty boss story. Why they had to deviate from that (yet again, like so many rip-off TV evolitions) is beyond me.
We're flooded with sequel after sequel after sequel. While some movies, like the Harry Potter adaptations, have no choice but to use multiple sequels to tell the full story, most are just made to cash in on the successful first movie. If that cash-in is worth anything during any sub-sequent release, more will ultimately be made.
Shrek Forever After (once called Shrek Goes Fourth) is coming soon. Oh yes, a fourth one. The first two were funny as hell, but the third kinda drug its feet. The only thing I hope it does is encourage Justin Timberlake to quit music and get into comedy acting, because he's honestly one very funny motherfucker. I am holding hope, though, since the plot sounds fairly cool, and Sir Paul McCartney is voicing a character as well.
Here are some sequels that absolutely ruined great original movies:
The Neverending Story II and III - What. The. FUCK?!? There is absolutely no reason for the Rock Biter to sing Born to be Wild. That is all I have to say. Avoid these like the plague. The only bright spot is a then-unknown Jack Black in III, but even that can't save it.There are entirely too many remakes being made as well, of both old films and film versions of old TV shows. Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels, The Italian Job, The Brady Bunch, Land of the Lost, Lost in Space, The Day the Earth Stood Still...
Any Direct-to-DVD Disney Animated Feature sequel - If you create one masterpiece, then you leave it alone. If you can't get the original voice actors back, there's no point. There are only so many songs that can be written about any given subject. Please, Disney. STOP.
Ace Ventura Jr. Pet Detective - Oh yes, this one exists, and many of your children have seen this flaming turd on Cartoon Network. The sequel to the only real sequel Jim Carey has ever consented to do. It's so bad, it went straight to air on Cartoon Network and hasn't even hit DVD that I know of as of this post.
Austin Powers: Goldmember - OK, the second one was good, but it obviously slowed down from the first. Meyers should have stopped there, because the third one was just reaching, grasping at straws, whatever clichè you want to use for the well running dry.
All illustrates one giant, gaping flaw in the current Hollywood design: They're just plain out of ideas.
And so they keep going back to the well, even though it's bone dry, and still they managed to somehow pack theaters with mindless junk. Even though - for now - the money's coming in, time is still running out.
They can't keep this up for much longer. More and more big-budget films bomb. And as drugs, age, and accidents continue to claim its marquee stars, it's losing it's second greatest asset.
Their greatest asset? Writers, and for some reason, they're actively shunning the really good ones by shelving their products or seeing no marketable hook/catch that they can make a mint off of.
It's no longer about producing good cinema. And when cinema isn't good, the industry's healt isn't good, either. Hollywood is dying, and only it can save itself.
But like the rest of the corporate world, it's a slave to the almighty bottom line, servants of shareholders who care nothing for anything but profit.
And as Hollywood goes, so follows America...