Debbie’s Totally Random and Completely Insignificant Pop Culture Awards of 2013, Part Two

Time for Part Two of this year’s pop culture awards! Last week I concentrated exclusively on television. This week, I deal with movies, books, music and other entertainment topics.

Hey, kids! Now you can experience your very own dystopian nightmare!

1. The Complete Failure To Get The Point Award: The anonymous clowns who have approached Lionsgate Films about building a theme park based on The Hunger Games—and Lionsgate, for seriously considering the offers.

No, they’re not kidding.

Sure, there are people defending the idea. I even get where they’re coming from. It’s what I call the Cinematic Conundrum. When you’re safe in your theater seat (or at your video console or reading your book) war can seem really cool and fun. So the notion of a theme park can also seem safe and cool and fun.

Some bring up Harry Potter World, because didn’t the Harry Potter series have a war and a lot of deaths, etc.?

Yes, it did.

Here’s the major difference, though:

The Harry Potter universe is set in a good if flawed society that the characters are trying to keep from turning into a nightmarish dystopia.

The Hunger Games universe is set in a nightmarish dystopia that the characters are trying to turn into a good if flawed society.­­

It’s just a rotten idea. Reenacting children killing children for show? Living in desperate poverty? Stuffing yourself and then throwing up at a Capitol party?

Oh, boy, let’s have some fun trying to outrun flaming tree limbs heartless gamemakers are hurling at us!

If they tone all that down—then what’s the point?

I went to Harry Potter World and thought the butterbeer was kind of disgusting, but I bet it will turn out to be ambrosia compared to Greasy Sae’s dog bone soup at Hunger Games World.

2. The Thanks For Reminding Me Why I Fell In Love With Movies Award: Alfonso Cuaron

The last few years I’ve been suffering from a massive case of blockbuster fatigue.

Don’t get me wrong. I love big movies. Have no snobbery about action movies or special effects. However, the past few years, they have become a case of too much noise and spectacle, not enough story, character and heart.

This year’s Man of Steel is a case in point. I SO wanted to love that movie. Was SO open to the idea of a darker, more mature Superman movie. Was SO psyched by the terrific actors cast in the iconic roles. And basically all I remember about it is Superman and Zod crashing through what seemed like 5,000 buildings. Even my nephew, who loves over-the-top action, muttered “Enough already!” during the building crash-fest.

Sure, when it comes to story and character, television has been filling the gap admirably. But there are certain things you can only experience in a movie theater.

So what a joy it was to experience the movie Gravity. THIS is the kind of movie that made me love movies in the first place.

Director Cuaron used 3D technology, not in a gimmicky way, but as a way to pull you into the story. The movie is probably the closest most of us will ever get to experience what it is like to be in outer space. There’s no way that can be replicated on television.

He also did something that nowadays seems almost radical—he made a movie that was only a shade over 90 minutes long and packed it with almost unbearable suspense from the first few moments until the end. I spent almost the entire movie looking like Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone, my hands plastered to the side of my face, crying from the purely visceral experience.

I hope more filmmakers will take Cuaron’s lead and give us movies that take us places only movies can take us, while telling us heart-stopping stories about characters we care about. And cut down on pointless building-crashing stuff.

ginjosh3. The Thanks For Making Us Feel Like Fairy Tales Really Can Come True Award: Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas.

This is the absolute truth: when I was little my mom used to tell me that she and my dad used to be Snow White and Prince Charming.

When I heard Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, who play Snow White and Prince Charming on ABC’s Once Upon A Time, were getting married my first thought was, “They can tell their kids they were Snow White and Prince Charming—and it will be the TRUTH!”

Then soon after the engagement announcement came the announcement that this was going to happen a little bit faster, as Ginnifer is already expecting their first child.

Is this the biggest AWWWWWWW moment of the year, or what?

Come on, you know it is, cynics.

4. The Maybe More Bands Should Record Albums While They’re Breaking Up Award: The Civil Wars

Nothing has pleased me more than the folk revival that has been going on the last few years. I’m not really a fan of mainstream country music (once it gets twangy, it loses me) but there have been so many amazing folk bands—both in North America and the British Isles—to emerge lately that I sometimes feel like I’m behind the curve. The Civil Wars was one act that I discovered a bit late, only hearing of them because they appeared on the soundtrack for the first Hunger Games movie. I really liked their first full-length album, Barton Hollow, but nothing prepared me for the stunning beauty of their self-named follow-up album.

Sadly, the duo—Joy Williams and John Paul White—were in the midst of a bitter professional break up while the album was being recorded. It was so bad, White refused to do any publicity at all for it after it was finished.

The mystery surrounding the bust-up has fueled a ton of gossipy speculation (both are married to other people) but more likely it was the reason cited by Williams, that they have differing levels of ambition.

Personally, I couldn’t care less why they broke up. I just hope they work it out someday. It would be CRIMINAL if they never got together again to create more music. The album has so many instant classics, sung with so much truth and passion. Even their cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm brings something new and haunting to a song that already has a creepy yet romantic edge to it.

As one commenter on YouTube said about one of their songs: “It’s so beautiful, it hurts.”

That pretty much sums up the entire album.

adam-levine5. The I Guess They Mean The Title Ironically Now Award: People Magazine, The Sexiest Man Alive

O.K., O.K., Adam Levine fans—cool your jets. This is NOT a hit piece against your guy. He’s tres sexy. To a lot of people and to you.

To others and to me—maybe not as much. Which is O.K., because sexiness is very subjective.

That’s kind of the point. It is WAY past time for People Magazine to retire this idiotic title. It was stupid back in 1985 and it’s stupid now. Even though there have been recipients chosen who I think are very sexy. Because the only way the title makes sense is if all the predecessors are DEAD.

Change it to what it actually is: The Guy People Magazine Thinks Deserves The Most Media Attention During The Coming Year.

There, I fixed it for you, People.

(On second thought, that might not work, either, because then they would have to give it to Pope Francis. I’ll get back to you, People.)

6. The We Really Will Watch Michael Shannon Read Anything Award: Michael Shannon’s Funny or Die Sorority Rant

Last April an expletive-filled email sent by a University of Maryland student to her chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority ended up on the Gawker website and itself became a bit of an internet sensation. Then actor Michael Shannon did a dramatic reading of the letter for Funny or Die, and it’s one of the most terrifying and hilarious things, um, well—ever.

The only sad part: he’s WAY more terrifying here than he was as General Zod in Man of Steel. Maybe he should have played Zod like a pissed-off sorority sister.

7. The Books That Made Me Laugh My Ass Off More Than Sitcoms Award: Redshirts by John Scalzi and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

When John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts won the Hugo Award this year, there was a bit of a controversy because some people thought it was too lightweight. Because, you know—funny can’t be, like, IMPORTANT, and stuff.

The truth is, comedy has one and only one obligation: to be funny. And anyone who thinks that’s easy to accomplish is not bright enough to decide what should and shouldn’t get an award.

Redshirts’ premise is based on something fans of Star Trek have noticed for decades: how come all those ensigns in the red shirts on away missions always seem to end up dead? The term redshirts has become a part of the lexicon now—the show Lost made references to Star Trek and fans referred to featured characters killed off on the show as “redshirts.”

Scalzi takes that seed of an idea and extrapolates it into a hilarious novel for everyone who loves space opera, spoofing not only that one trope, but the genre as a whole. I say set your lasers on stun for those who dare to put you down for liking this book.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is the latest essay collection by David Sedaris. I love listening to the audio versions of his books and often end up laughing hysterically at his stories about his childhood growing up in a big eccentric family in the South, or living with his partner in France or England, or any number of what for most of us would be mundane experiences but are gems to be mined for humor by Sedaris.

My favorite essay in this collection by far was “The Happy Place,” his recounting of a certain invasive medical test middle-aged people are hectored by their doctors into taking—as I was this past year. This may be a bit TMI, but believe me when I tell you that Sedaris’ story helped me get over my fears of going through with it.

Now go to your happy place and enjoy this book.

Paul-Walker-fast-and-furious-68. The Pop Culture Dunce of the Year Award: Me

Yep, I win this one.

When it was announced that actor Paul Walker was killed in an automobile accident, I had no idea who he was.


Not a clue. Pretty embarrassing to admit when I write a blog partially devoted to popular culture. And it’s not like he was so young that he was generationally off my radar. (Heck, I knew who Corey Monteith was.)

I was completely baffled by the outpour of emotion on social media, but was really stunned when the Twitter account for The Young and the Restless posted condolences and called him part of their extended family. I’ve watched the show fairly consistently over its 40 year run and still couldn’t place him. Me, the Queen of Soap Opera Trivia, who remembers Blair Underwood played a character named Bobby Blue on One Life to Live for three weeks over twenty years ago!

Not only was Walker clearly well-loved as an actor, it sounds as if he was one hell of a great human being. I’m truly sorry I wasn’t aware of him during his lifetime.

If anyone would care to make some movie recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

9. Same as last year, I’m ending things with 2013’s version of The Sleepy Skunk’s Movie Trailer Mash-Up. Sleepy Skunk gets better and better at this each year! Enjoy!


Gravity: Story Trumps Accuracy in Fiction


Gravity is a fantastic movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Blow the extra bucks on the 3D version—totally worth it.

Let me just say also, I love astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I need to make that clear right up front.

He is not only a brilliant man, he’s a COOL and brilliant man. That’s an awesome combination.

When it comes to arguing the pro-science side, he’s the guy you want on your team.

When we’re talking about real life, that is.

When it comes to critiquing a movie, however, he kind of sucks.

(Sorry, Neil. Really, I love you, man.)

A few days after the movie Gravity, directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuaron, opened—to a record-breaking box-office take and many positive reviews—Tyson took to Twitter and sent out a series of tweets about the “mysteries” of Gravity. He basically picked apart every aspect of the movie that was not 100% scientifically accurate.

I happened to be on Twitter as these tweets were being posted and sat there with my mouth hanging open in dismay as I scrolled through them.

Many of the people I follow on Twitter are either sci-fi writers or sci-fi fans. My feed was suddenly awash with consternation over Tyson’s tweets.

One published writer I follow was so upset she vowed NEVER to attempt writing sci-fi again.

She’ll probably get over that eventually. But she was typical of the vocal reaction to Tyson’s tweets. Many felt he was denigrating the movie, and others, who either hadn’t seen the movie or saw it and didn’t care for it (no work of fiction is beloved by ALL), applauded him for smacking the movie down.

Tyson was clearly stunned by the reaction his tweets generated, because he took to Facebook the next day to clarify that he loved the movie and was sorry he did not also tweet the many things the movie did right.

Tyson was not the only scientist to pick apart the movie’s accuracy—there were others, including former astronaut  Scott Parazynski, interviewed for the New York Magazine entertainment website, Vulture. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin also did a guest review in The Hollywood Reporter.

One thing you can’t help notice, though, is that while they criticized some of the science in the movie, nearly all, like Tyson, emphasized that they loved it. Most call it the most scientifically-accurate space movie to date.

I also can’t help pointing out that Tyson and some others got one thing about the movie wrong—they called Dr. Ryan Stone, Sandra Bullock’s character, a medical doctor, and assumed she’s a physician, complaining she would not be working on the Hubble.

She’s not a physician. She’s a medical engineer. Not only that, but in real life two astronauts who were a physician and a veterinarian, on different missions, have repaired the Hubble during space walks.

Hey, I’m no scientist or expert on NASA missions, but it only took about 60 seconds of Googling to find that out.

So. Even the experts can be inaccurate now and again.

When it comes to the other items they brought up, I’m going to trust that they are correct and the movie is wrong.

On a couple of issues, it’s easy to see why the movie did not adhere to science completely. For instance, Tyson cited Bullock’s hair not floating in zero gravity. That’s likely because it was not possible to film it that way since they weren’t actually in zero gravity during filming. (I could mention other instances that were inaccurate and guess why director Cuaron went that way, but they’re spoilers.)

Why Cuaron made other choices that were inaccurate, I can’t say for sure, but my gut tells me it’s because it served the story better to tell it that way.

While on the one hand it’s a stunning visual experience (even the scientific naysayers admit it’s the closest most of us will ever get to experiencing what it’s like to be in space) the story is what shines the most in Gravity. On the surface, it’s a survival thriller—disaster strikes, the characters try to survive. But there’s much more going on. It’s also a story about emotional survival, about our small place in a vast universe, about our connection to each other as human beings. There were many moments during the movie where I was in tears, not because of any sappy sentimentality, but because it was such a visceral experience. Cuaron packed a lot in a very short running time (only 91 minutes!) and left me exhausted at the end from the relentless tension. He cleverly eschewed the usual Hollywood trappings (flashbacks, romance, conspiracy theories) and spun a simple yet deeply engrossing tale.

I’m not one of those people who dismisses inaccuracies with the standard “it’s only a movie” excuse. I’m not a science nerd, but I am a bit of a history nerd and sometimes become aggravated by historical fiction that plays fast and loose with facts. But if the changes serve to tell a better story, then the inaccuracies don’t bother me very much.

Cuaron clearly did his research and got much of the science right. But he also made choices that were not accurate, and still made a great movie.

It can be a very fine line, but story trumps accuracy every time.

8 Reasons Why Hollywood Should Have Shelved The Lone Ranger Movie

lonerangertonto(SIDENOTE: This week is my one-year Blogversary! WordPress informed me on July 1 that I have had this blog for one year, but that was the day I signed up for a blog. My first blog post appeared on July 8, 2012. Thanks to all who have stopped by over the past year!)

What does it mean to “shelve” a movie? That’s Hollywood-speak for a project that’s put aside, usually for good, at some point in the development stage. The Lone Ranger, which opened this week, was almost shelved because of its projected $250 million budget. The studio was convinced to keep it in development, with a much, much, much (cough!) tinier budget of $225 million. The movie is now tanking, in fact, it is being steamrollered by the animated flick Despicable Me 2.

The sad part of this? There were SO many indications that this was a mega-flop waiting to happen. For instance:

1. Westerns do not do well outside of the U.S. I love Westerns, but the hard, cold fact is they are currently only somewhat popular here in the U.S. and not at all popular outside the U.S. International box office is the bread and butter of expensive blockbuster movies. Even movies that flop in the U.S., like last year’s John Carter, can manage to make money overseas. A recent Western that did excellent business in the U.S., 2010’s True Grit, only made about 30% of its money overseas. Non-Western domestic flops like Battleship and John Carter made around 75 – 80% of their money overseas.

2. So in order to make a profitable Western, the budget has to fit the potential audience. True Grit only cost $38 million to make. Of course, you have to add on marketing costs. The general rule of thumb is a movie costs twice its production budget. So True Grit theoretically cost $76 million to produce and market. It made around $250 million world-wide—excellent profitability. But in the case of The Lone Ranger, it would have to gross $450 million world-wide. Even if it pulls in a Battleship/John Carter-type $200-240 million overseas gross, it will probably still end up in the red.

3. On what planet is it a good idea to cast your STAR as the supporting character? I’ll get to the inappropriate whitewashing of the character of Tonto in a minute, but I, and about a bazillion other movie fans, were completely stunned by the news that Johnny Depp—one of the most reliable box-office draws in the world right now—was going to play the sidekick. Unless Robert Downey, Jr. is playing the Lone Ranger, this makes absolutely no sense. (Of course, then the movie would have cost $275 million to make, so it still doesn’t really make sense.)

4. About that whitewashing thing. Yes, I know—he’s an actor playing a role. Yes, he claims he has Cherokee or Creek blood or some such thing. Whatever. The truth is, there are several Native American actors (hello, Adam Beach?) who could have played Tonto in support of an actor with proven box-office draw as the Lone Ranger. THAT would have made sense.

A Native American actor could have also told them the whole dead bird on the head/constantly wearing war paint makeup thing has nothing to do with any of the many Native American cultures of this continent. Or any of the cultures of any continent.

5. Hollywood has just turned Armie Hammer into this year’s Taylor Kitsch. You bastards. I like Armie. He has a lot of potential and could be nursed into a big star with the right roles. He was one of the top choices of Hunger Games fans to play Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He was interested in the role, in fact, his wife even encouraged him to consider it.

The reason he couldn’t do it? HE WAS MAKING THE LONE RANGER. I’m certain Sam Claflin, who was ultimately cast as Finnick, will do a stellar job. But there will always be an element of “what might have been” because Armie was making an almost guaranteed flop instead of an almost guaranteed blockbuster hit.

Good going, guys.

6. It’s not like a Lone Ranger project ever flopped before. Oh, wait a minute—yes it has. The 1981 version, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, was such a notorious flop the actor cast as the Lone Ranger sank into total obscurity about five minutes after the movie debuted. Klinton Spilsbury—remember that name? Yeah, nobody else does, either.

Hey, Hollywood—I have a sure-fire success for you! Make a Flash Gordon movie! Like the incredibly unsuccessful one you made back in the 1980s!

Not a good idea, you say?

That’s my point.

(Silly me–while I was adding the above link to the 1980 Flash Gordon movie, I discovered on the IMDB that there is a Flash Gordon movie currently in development. Oh, Hollywood, you slay me!)

7. Apparently, it’s not just on concept and casting that the movie stumbled. I haven’t seen the movie, but Charlie Jane Anders at i09 did a great take-down of the movie’s mishandling of the Lone Ranger’s origin story. I also want to give Charlie Jane a lot of credit for NOT blaming the failure of the movie solely on the fact that it’s a Western. (I took exception to an article she wrote a while back about the supposed death of the genre.)

8. Demographics were always against this movie. The Holy Grail of summer blockbusters is what is known as the “four quadrant” movie. This means that it attracts people from all four demographic quadrants: young, old, male and female. Predictably, The Lone Ranger attracted mostly older males. Parents were probably repelled because of warnings by critics about the violence, so they didn’t take their older kids, in spite of the PG-13 rating. Without kids, young adult males (who are often repeat viewers) and females (who are needed to put blockbusters in the mega-successful range) the movie had little chance of recouping its budget.

Is it possible to make a successful blockbuster Western? Maybe. The same team who worked on The Lone Ranger (director Gore Verbinski, writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio) made the mega-successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So with that behind-the-scene talent and the star of those movies, Johnny Depp, there was probably a belief that lightning would strike again, and a not-very-popular genre would again turn into box office gold. But they’re not an infallible group, and there were so many glaring missteps it’s hard to see how this could have succeeded.

Many (myself included) want to see Hollywood take more risks, but the next time there are so many neon signs flashing “FLOP FLOP FLOP” maybe they should pay attention. They could have made a really good—and profitable—Western with a fraction of that money, and still had plenty left over for a good summer blockbuster.

Oscars, I Can’t Quit You

Oscar-2013Another year, another Oscars show. (Did you notice we’re not calling it “The Academy Awards” anymore?  I think probably because some focus group told them it made the show sound like it’s for old people.)

Yay for Argo—I watched the movie for the first time just before the Oscars aired and LOVED it. Of course, this made me even madder that Ben Affleck was snubbed in the directing category. I was also thrilled to see Jennifer Lawrence win, even though I am no fan of The Silver Linings Playbook.

But, boy, did we all have to slog through a lot of tedious crap to get to most of the good stuff.

Clearly, the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host was yet another attempt to capture a younger demographic. But as with other hosts culled from the supposedly cooler strata of pop culture—i.e, Dave Letterman, Jon Stewart, Anne Hathaway and James Franco (?), the show has a way of sucking the coolness right out of them.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon, really.

I enjoy MacFarlane a great deal in other contexts. But in the context of the Oscars, he deflated. I’m not even going to get into the supposed offensiveness of the jokes he told, because, come on, you had to know going in that those were the kind of jokes he was going to tell. But funny or not, offensive or not, many of them just kind of . . . died. The opening did have its moments—I loved the sock puppets—but mostly the jokes were sort of meh.

I think context is the key. When you stick a youngish, edgy host in the middle of an old, stodgy format that had hair growing on it back in the 1960s, it’s not going to do much besides emphasize the weaknesses of both the host and the format.

I stayed and watched to the bitter end, as hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide did.

That’s the real problem with the Oscars. Though they lust after younger demos, they know they have a ginormous audience that will sit through every tedious monologue, every absurd dance number, every lame bantering joke by presenters, every boring speech by technicians nobody ever heard of. (They did try to curtail this by playing the theme from Jaws whenever anyone went over time—which seemed a tad boorish, putting the audience on the side of the boring speechmakers for a change.)

We keep watching because we want to know who won. (Admit it, we also want to be there in case someone falls down on the way to the podium. This happened this year to Jennifer Lawrence, who recovered from her stumble with remarkable grace and humor.) So they know we just can’t quit the Oscars. This gives them absolutely no incentive to fundamentally change.

Let’s say they were open to change. Let’s say they might ask me for advice. (Stop laughing.) Here are a few thoughts on how they could vastly improve the Oscars telecast:

1.  Broadcast it from New York City. I know what you’re thinking: how could Hollywood have their biggest night of the year anywhere but Hollywood? But there’s a method to my madness. I guarantee you a big reason why the show rambles on for close to four hours every year is because they’re on West Coast time. This means they get out of there at 9:30 PM, which is still kind of early to start the partying. While those of us on the East Coast have to limp into bed at 12:30 AM or later with our alarm clocks set for 5:30 AM to get to work the next day.

It doesn’t have to be from New York. Anywhere on the East Coast would work. I’ll bet anything they would find a way to get out of there in less than three hours so they would have enough time to hit all the after-parties.

2. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ SONG AND DANCE NUMBERS! Yes, I AGREE—the performances this year by Shirley Bassey, Jennifer Hudson, the casts of Chicago and Les Miserables, Barbra Streisand and Adele were all phenomenal. But they were a big reason the show went on and on and on . . . this isn’t the Grammys or the Tonys. (Both of those shows still manage to move faster than the Oscars.)  Worse, because they spent so much time with OTHER musical numbers, two of the nominated songs didn’t get a live performance.

Did you notice they cut the Honorary Oscars segment? And yet the show still ran way too long. It’s the song and dance numbers that are to blame. And also . . .

3. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ TRIBUTE VIDEOS . . . except for the in memoriam tribute.  Besides the memorial for those who died over the past year the tributes generally stink. The tribute to James Bond movies was a case in point, except for the aforementioned performance by Bassey. Not ONE line of dialogue? Really?

I love classic movies and can understand wanting to give a young audience some exposure to them. But the tributes take up a lot of time and they are almost always poorly done. Get rid of them.

4. Move some of the smaller awards to a different ceremony. I know the sound technicians and filmmakers of short films will hate me for saying this, but besides their family members and those who have entered an Oscar pool, no one cares. These are the people who are also most likely to go over time giving thank you speeches to everyone they ever met, starting with the doctor who delivered them.

5. The fewer presenters per award, the better. Having more presenters means more asinine banter. The Avengers and the Chicago cast were a bit painful to watch. I get that they have to cram in as many stars as they can over the evening, but keep it down to two per award. One is even better.

(BTW, isn’t Scarlett Johansson one of the Avengers? Please tell me she was left out because she was engaged elsewhere, and not because she’s, um, a girl.)

6. Hollywood, make more great movies that appeal to wider audiences. You can do it, Hollywood. You used to on a regular basis. Remember, Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all were nominated for Best Picture. Even with nine Best Picture nominations, many people under the age of 50 hadn’t seen most of them—some hadn’t even see any of them. Popular movies with major nominations mean a bigger and younger viewing audience.

7. Seriously, make better movies.

My Thoughts On How To “Fix” Hollywood

Hollywood movie red carpetMy good friend Nick Leshi wrote a blog point called 5 Ways To Make Hollywood Better, which was his response to an article on The Wrap that had nine industry experts give their views on how to fix Hollywood.

Nick’s suggestions are all great, and I thought I’d add a few of my own:

1. Stop treating entertainment and art as mutually exclusive entities. Hey, Hollywood, guess what: Alfred Hitchcock was such a financially successful filmmaker in his time that he wasn’t considered arty enough and was never awarded a competitive Oscar. Now he’s considered one of the greatest film artists of all time.

The point is, movies can be both art AND entertainment. If you don’t believe it, take a gander at most of the Pixar animated films. They are both. People who want to can enjoy movies like Up or Ratatouille as pure fun. Or they can enjoy their deeper themes as well.

Conversely, when doing “serious” movies, lighten them up a little! Most have become so turgid and boring (because that’s how you know they are “serious” movies) that very few people, even among the most high-minded movie-goers, want to see them.

2. Speaking of Pixar, do what creators of animated films do and invest a lot of time in story and character. It’s the major reason why animated films are often among the best films of the year.

3. That doesn’t mean hire skeighty-eight writers to do skeighty-eight drafts of a script. One of the things you can’t help but notice about the nominees every year in the Best Screenplay categories: they’re almost always for screenplays written by one writer, two at the most. (And when it’s two writers, it’s almost always a true collaboration.)

There are many instances of movies where there are only a couple of writers credited, but there were several uncredited writers who worked on them. You know what they say about too many cooks spoiling the soup?

Apparently, a lot of people in Hollywood are unfamiliar with that saying.

4. Divest yourselves of the tired myth that only teenage boys go to the movies. Time and time again, it’s been proven that when you offer them a good product, women and older people will flock to the movies. Yet the notion still persists that it’s only young boys who drive box office success. Male-driven blockbusters do far better when they appeal to women as well. Stop pretending that only little boys like to play in the movie sandbox.

5. Steal more writers and directors from television, because television is kicking your ass right now. Joss Whedon already had a base of devoted fans before he ever made The Avengers. J.J. Abrams, too, before he did the successful reboot of Star Trek. There’s a lot of talent working on television now, and they are writing and directing and producing some amazing stuff. With way less money than filmmakers get to play with, yet some of it could easily go up against anything put on a movie screen. Grab some more of that talent, they could be making some great movies.

6. About the money it costs to make movies . . . it’s getting to the point of ridiculous. John Carter might not be considered a huge turkey right now if it hadn’t cost way over $200 million to produce and market. I’m thinking similar fates may await The Lone Ranger and Oz The Great And Powerful. They could turn out to be good movies and still not attract enough of an audience to justify how much they cost to make.

There will always be tent pole and blockbuster movies, but studios need to be pickier about what they throw a couple of hundred million at (*cough*Battleship*cough*). There also have to be more mid-range budget movies. And they have to be awesome (see the points about spending more time on story, characters, etc.).

7. Take more chances. YES, Cloud Atlas flopped at the box office. But so did several of the “sure-fire” projects, like the previously mentioned John Carter and Battleship. Franchises and even remakes and reboots have their place. But they have taken over the movie roster far too much. The next big thing is almost always something no one ever thought would be the next big thing. The only way that happens is by taking risks.

8. Pay way more attention to casting. There have been some big casting missteps lately, usually to do with movie adaptations of popular books. One For The Money, based on the insanely popular Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, was dead on arrival because of a dim-witted decision to cast a totally unsuitable Katherine Heigl in the lead role. Jack Reacher might be doing better if they had picked an actor who would have been more believable in the role than Tom Cruise.

Casting Daniel Craig breathed new life into the James Bond franchise. Yet sometimes, it seems like very little real thought is put into it.

Remember, they were originally going to cast Casablanca with Ronald Reagan in the lead role.

Casting matters. A lot.

9. Realize that part of the problem is a self-correcting one. We’re in the midst of a generational shift. Nearly every time that happens, the movie industry experiences a bit of a creative lull or dip. Movies were in a terrible rut during the 1960s, as the old Hollywood system died (and many of the great filmmakers of that generation died off or made product that seemed irrelevant to young filmgoers) and then had a huge comeback during the early 70s as Baby Boomer filmmakers like Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola burst on the scene. A similar thing happened in the early 90s as Gen-X filmmakers like Tarantino, Soderbergh, Smith, among others, started making a significant impact on films.

Very soon, we’re going to see a new generation of filmmakers emerge, and that nearly always means a creative resurgence to the industry. It’s quite exciting to anticipate, actually, and no one can really predict how the industry will change. But it will in some fashion change, and most likely for the better.

If Hollywood offers an environment where both emerging and seasoned filmmakers can flourish, the possibilities, both creative and financial, are endless.