The Diminishing Old Guard Of Hollywood
George, Francis, and Steven you’re better than this. And you know it. I hate you all, yet I love you all.
One director brought the smell of napalm in the morning to our screens. Another took us to a Galaxy far, far away. One brought Dinosaurs back to life and into our cinemas. We all know who they are: Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg. All of them seen above, minus Marty, have cracking beards, but thats not the point. With the man holding the smaller Golden man, Martin Scorsese, having recently released the critically acclaimed Hugo into the cinematic realm were left to wonder; whats happened to the rest of them? Their once almighty talents now seem to be focused upon diminishing their own legacies, the desire they once had to create and maintain their filmic reputations seem to be diminishing with every new feature they release. With Spielberg about to unleash his disappointing technological imagining of the Euro-centric Tintin on the American market this Christmas. Lets start with Coppola, the best beard of them all. The 1970s belonged to him; in that era alone he directed what many would consider four of the greatest films of all time. The Godfather and its sequel are frequently in many top 10 film lists of all time, along with Apocalypse Now which many consider to be the greatest war movie of all time. As for The Conversation, a film with a minute budget compared to its well endowed companions, personally I think it is the best of the four and is a highly underrated film, even if it is a slight rip off of Antonionis Blow-Up. Hackman is outstanding as he displays a subtlety which many of his other characters have contained within themselves. The sound editing, of which many critics have applauded, is an example of just how well made the film is. The 80s brought with them two Coppola/S.E. Hinton adaptations in the form of Rumblefish and The Outsiders, both helped many actors kick-start their careers none more so than one Matt Dillon who starred in both. Both were highly stylised and both, although nowhere near his 70s thoroughbreds, were very solid films. Unfortunately there is not much to celebrate since then, a return to complete a trilogy of Godfather films was shrouded in criticism. The casting of his daughter Sofia, now a successful Hollywood director in her own right, was an easy target. An overblown burlesque adaptation of the great Dracula was ill-fated; it neither captured the tone or the horror element instead opting for a more whimsical interpretation with un-substantial content. And the less said about his collaboration with Robin Williams on Jack, the better. A self imposed 10 year exile from directing was perhaps a good idea for Coppola. However his return in 2007 with Youth Without Youth, a bewildering film which wastes the talents of Tim Roth, was a frustrating meandering watch. Collaboration with the uncanny Vincent Gallo in Tetro seemed to be a step in the right direction. That was until his latest film Twixt arrived in Toronto. Word out of the festival declares it as another disappointment, with poor acting and the use of 3D a seemingly perplexing idea. Apparently Coppola intends on doing Road screenings, re-editing the film after every screening depending on the audience response. Is this really what one of Hollywoods greats now has to resort to? Since his return, Coppola has taken it upon himself to fulfil his own passion projects, even going as far to finance the films via his own Californian Vinyard. In an attempt to change his style to a more minimalist and subtle approach, Coppola has kept his budgets far lower than his 70s self and unfortunately it shows in more ways than one. Smaller budget films hide their inefficiencies with a great script/story/acting, nowadays Coppola unfortunately cant. Next up hes attached as a producer onto the adaptation of the greatest Beatnik book of all time; Jack Kerouacs On The Road, a film which once upon a time (he bought the rights to it in 1979) was his passion project. Although I will withhold judgement until the films release, the thought of the constantly stoned-like acting of Kristen Stewart on the screen really, really hurts my mind. Perhaps his focus should return to the script that got away in the form of the epic sounding, Megalopolis. A sci-fi epic revolving around an architect and the future outlook of New York City, the idea that modern day New York is already planning change. Would anyone give him the budget to display this? Apparently not, the script has been shelved since 2005. Maybe he should storm into every studios office with Ride of the Valkyries playing full blast in the background maybe then they might reconsider. Unlike the frustration that comes with Coppolas downturn, when it comes to George Lucas I have nothing but unadulterated anger... Im positive Im not alone. Creating two of the most popular trilogies of all time (I know I need not name them, but I will) in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, come 1989 he had made a legacy few would ever question. Yet here we sit in 2011 and the virile hate from fanboys grows with every day gone by. Take a recent tweet from Star Wars fanatic Simon Pegg for example; I wonder if George Lucas will ever replace himself with CGI. He should do. He's a muppet It is easy to attack Lucas with the argument that when he was in collaboration with another mind, whether it be Kershner or Spielberg, his films were better crafted when his stories had a visionary who could realise them with aplomb. However many forget that before his two iconic trilogies were even released he had written and directed two brilliant films. I once admitted to liking THX 1138, Lucas first feature, more than Star Wars. My friends shunned me for the days and judging by the looks I was getting from my neighbours I was sure theyd heard me utter such a sacrilegious statement. It is a brilliant sci-fi tale of a rigid dystopian future which has outlawed sex and maintains power over its society with controlling drugs. His next film which is considered to be the founding father of Teen films, American Graffiti, is an experience in nostalgia which confirmed Lucas talent. Yet, and rightfully so, it was in 1977 when he truly made his mark on cinema. Star Wars. A constant hand-me-down over generations, I have no doubt that the film will forever be known and loved. The same can be said about the Empire Strikes Back which many see as the greatest sequel of all time. The story unfurled in the original was built upon so brilliantly that when THE twist came you were taken aback while at the same time your hands wanted to perform the clapping motion at its sheer genius. Mix in set pieces which to this day still stand up against the slew of Hollywood action films and few could argue with such grandiose sentiment as greatest sequel of all time. Although the story was not yet complete in that world, Lucas went on to write another stalwart franchise; Indiana Jones. Giving the directing helm to one Mr Spielberg was a brilliant idea in itself, his ability to weave great character driven scripts into films whose set pieces threaten to supersede them is second to none. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a gem on top American cinemas crown, one which is loved by cinemagoers and critics alike, creating a character which is as culturally important as James Bond without the literature to inspire it. And although in one year from 1983-1984 he created two sequels to either franchise which were slightly frowned upon by their fans (Ewoks and a rather Racist Temple), both films hold a slightly nostalgic love where their flaws are accepted. Then came what should have been the final revisiting to the Indiana Jones franchise, The Last Crusade. Bringing in Sean Connery and returning to the Nazi villains which worked so well in the original was a masterstroke, one which left fans happy. What happened next in Lucas career has left them anything but. Look at Lucass IMDB page now and you can see how his own Star Wars and Indiana creations have been left in opposite hospital beds, frail, while a nurse frantically tries to find a vein to pump more blood out of their limp pathetic excuse for a body. Many would have been happy to just leave the franchises be, however I think we would all be lying that when The Phantom Menace was announced we werent all extremely happy at the prospect. That was until Jar Jar Binks came on the screen with his weird hybrid slightly Jamaican accent (Lucas has always been a bit shaky in respect to Black culture) and an extremely stupid demeanour. Star Wars was never meant to be anywhere near realistic yet Mr Binks stuck out like a sore thumb and everyone knew it. In returning to his franchises, and in the case of Star Wars the directing chair, Lucas has ultimately tarnished his adored creation. What started out as a promising ideology has now left a sour taste in fans mouths. However many were willing to forget and move on with Attack of The Clones. Unfortunately the casting of the wooden limp Hayden Christensen as the soon to be Darth Vader was a poor decision and the sudden CGI like bouncing green ball of Yoda fighting Lord Summerisle was comical, not cool. The taste in the mouth became even sourer. At this point I was ready to curl up into a ball and pretend it never happened, Im sure many were ready to join me. However the idea of Obi-Wan and Anakin duelling was one which could drag even the most bitter of fans to the theatre. And so we gathered, and it was ok, but it should have been so much more, it should have been cool, our jaws should have hit the ground, we should have stood up in applause. Unfortunately for Lucas the damage was already done, no one wanted to accept Christensen as one of the greatest cinematic villains and so many like I have chosen to believe it never happened. It hurts less that way. You would think Lucas would have learnt, except he didnt. You would think Spielberg would have said Aliens? Really George are you sure? Its one thing to write a story about a shaman who can pull peoples hearts out with a chant and a hand twist but Aliens? he didnt. And so 3 years ago Indiana Jones returned hat and whip in hand. Karen Allen returned; unfortunately her motivation for acting is gone. Cate Blanchett played a terrible Russian villain who made Mola Ram from The Temple of Doom look like Blofeld. And then there was Mutt, Indianas son played by the growingly dislikeable Shia LeBeouf. A misjudged plot involving Aliens and set pieces involving a fridge and a nuclear bomb, CGI gophers and Shia swinging through tress with monkeys, made us wish we had never pined for another whip and hat adventure. The only cheer to come out of it was stopping Shia from picking up Indianas hat, thankfully he isnt about to fill his fathers boots. I miss River Phoenix. The problem it seems is Lucas reluctance to let his creations go, his punishment is a tarnished reputation which may never ever recover. Unfortunately for him he helped to create two of Hollywoods most loved franchises and now the same fans, who once loved him, beg him to stop. Nobody is pining for another Indiana Jones and people are dreading a decision to revisit the galaxy. Everybody wants him to stop; even Spielberg thinks hes crazy. Talking of Spielberg, perhaps not all of the blame can go to Lucas for the demise of the Indiana Jones franchise; after all he was the one who had the idea for the Nuke and fridge. The man who brought us Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T and Jurassic Park appears to be facing extended criticism for the first time in his historic career. Sure he has faltered before, 1941 and Sugarland Express come to mind, but they were both followed up with films which have ultimately helped to define him; Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I find it weird that Im asking myself, what was the last great film Spielberg made? Perhaps it was Catch me if You Can or the brilliant Minority Report. It certainly wasnt The Terminal which also seems to have signalled an end to Tom Hanks career. Spielberg has always demonstrated an ability to perfectly navigate along a line which avoids being overly sentimental or pragmatic in its approach to feeling. However The Terminal falls off the line and Hanks who if Im being honest Ive never truly admired is the worst actor for sentimentality. Unfortunately for The Terminal, it didnt have a Jaws or a Jurassic Park to follow up with, instead it was Spielbergs imagining of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. Now the film is not horrendous by any stretch of the imagination, but its reliance of its special effects is clear to see. With plot holes so obvious a 5 year old could see them and an abrupt ending, the film falls short and merely becomes average, an annoying Dakota Fanning doesnt help matters, particularly with his track record of getting the best out of his child actors. Spielberg never use to direct average big budget blockbusters, a worrying sign. Next up was Munich, a passion project for the Jewish Spielberg. The last time he attempted a passion project, the brilliant Schindlers List was an emotional rollercoaster with a personal touch so strong you could feel Spielberg himself crying as he directed it. Munich is brilliant in its own right, it doesnt come anywhere near the heights of Schindlers List, but it is a well thought out historical drama. Unfortunately for Spielberg, the film rightly came under fire for its claims to be inspired by real events. This hasnt hurt every horror film using the same claims; apparently Ted Bundy has killed many people in many different ways. But for Spielberg this represents a change in mantra, whereas he handled the holocaust with efficiency and fact, according to Guardian writers Yossi Melman and Steven Hartov, he and his team chose merely to avoid the facts. This may not have had an effect on the less than stellar box office takings, but Spielberg had seemingly become complacent with his reputation. Enter Indiana Jones. Spielberg, who once ruled the blockbuster realm, appears to be stalling. And with the release of Tintin on American soil just a month away a looming test lies ahead. Sure it has been a massive financial success on European soil, but it is a Belgian comic which has been adored on the continent for many, many years. Personally I didnt feel the hate that many Tintin fans have expressed, but I was left disappointed. When announced, I had hoped that they captured the essence of Tintin, the excitement for adventure and the realism that reflected from the comic. Instead Spielberg and co. opted to adapt the film in a boorish manner; the subtleties are lost in a blockbuster realm perhaps the comics should never have entered. What I felt more worrying were the characters. Normally Spielberg helps nurture them to be loved by the audience, perhaps in recent times this has levitated away, and in Tintin they appear soulless and not merely because they are CGI creations. Perhaps when the adaptation of War Horse arrives to screens well see Spielberg return to his best, a story about a young adult searching for his horse in the midst of World War one is a perfect fit for Spielberg. Im just hoping we get the Spielberg of old, the man who wowed us with an introduction to CGI dinosaurs, the man who once showed Robert Shaw fight a Shark and the man who so brilliant recreated D-Day. Im falling out of love with Spielberg but Im clinging on in hope. Complacency maybe, but these three men once ruled over Hollywood with nobody able to come close to them. Nowadays they seem idle, ready to let their reputations take them into the next generation and beyond. Their passion seems drained and to be honest they dont seem that bothered. Spielberg continues to link himself to drivel like Bays Transformers. Given hes only a producer but it doesnt help a man who now for the first time in his career has his guard up. Lucas Im sure will return for another Indiana adventure and god forbid he reaches for the stars again, his new film Red Tails seems to be a racial foil for his constant filmic embarrassments but still looks promising. As for Coppola it is a matter of frustration, inject some passion and determination into the man and he will thrive, for now he sits stagnant and grumpy at Hollywood. Perhaps they should all look at Marty Scorsese, a man who received his Oscar from the three men in question. It was a long overdue win for a man whose fervour and enthusiasm for cinema has never faltered. He may not have a beard (at the moment) but for now he is the only member of the old guard whose reputation continues to grow. And now his first foray into 3D and Childrens fantasy Hugo, has been met with universal acclaim. His brilliant films may have been ignored for many years by the academy but now he is the last man standing, the last of the Hollywood old guard. If only he could convince the acting old guard of Pacino and De Niro to actually read a script. George, Francis, and Steven youre better than this. And you know it. I hate you all, yet I love you all. Why does this have to be so hard when Marty makes it all look so easy?