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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: can Paramount be trusted to find its own ass? (a contemplation on the strange release of ‘Annihilation’)

Signs point to no.

(In case you didn’t read all the way through that FB post, I won’t have access to Annihilation until it debuts on Netflix on March 12th. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it after that.)


posted in:
easter eggs
  • I didn’t realize it was going to be on Netflix so soon! I was thinking I wanted to see it in the theater but have no one to go with. Now I’m excited since it looks so damn good.

  • It won’t be on Netflix in the US or Canada on the 12th. Because you got the theatrical release. Everywhere is getting only Netflix, with no chance to see the film on a big screen.

  • Bluejay

    it sounds like possibly something that people who liked *Arrival* would like.

    Although the article does point out that Annihilation didn’t do well even where it WAS theatrically released.

    It also insultingly reaches this conclusion:

    “The key takeaway here is a self-reflective one. Audiences around the world should be mad they have to watch “Annihilation” on Netflix, but they should be more upset with their fellow moviegoers than with Paramount. If viewers are going to demand a studio release a film like “Annihilation” in theaters, then they’re going to have to show studios that films of similar makeup are not financial risks. Hollywood is a reactionary business, so if no one is going to show up to see the “mother!’s” of the world then studios are going to stop taking chances on them…”

    Apparently when films like doormat mother! and Blade Runner Something Number Number and Whitewashed Ghost in the Shell and Tiny Matt Damon tank, the AUDIENCE is to blame for studio skittishness? Fuck you, IndieWire Article! MAKE BETTER MOVIES. Make them diverse. Make them smart AND make them accessible and entertaining. (Those qualities are NOT mutually incompatible; Black Panther was a blast AND will fuel thinkpieces for years.) MAKE US CARE. Audiences owe studios NOTHING, and I’m sick of studios blaming audiences for their films’ failures.

  • deirdre

    Okay, I’m back from having that argument with you over Star Wars: The Last Jedi :) It goes to figure that The actor who plays Poe (still waiting for the courts martial on him!) is in this too….

    Okay, I saw the movie tonight with my 17 year old son. Thoughts:

    I’ll try to be non spoilerish, but be warned…

    This is one of the most horrifying things I have seen in years. Nightmarish. Some of the visuals had me ready to bolt under my chair and hide (and I am an ex soldier and helicopter door gunner)

    It will be VERY challenging for many viewers since it is highly allegorical and the director is not even vaguely interested in providing a straightforward narrative or in wrapping things up neatly. However, for the viewer who LIKES a challenge, this movie will be highly rewarding. I suspect it will require multiple viewings, as did Inception, in order to fully understand some of the dynamics. Be aware that the allegorical nature of this film means it is far more interested in exploring themes rather than discrete events, and suicide, self destruction, depression and loss are examined in fairly brutal detail. The saying of “When one stares into the abyss, the abyss stares back” never seemed so apt before.

    Also, this is a science fiction film that is about women and FOR women. Oscar Isaacs is a minor supporting character (even if his role is pivotal) and this is welcome trend I would like to encourage. As I mention above, however, this movie deals with serious and (very!) disturbing thematic material and some people who are sensitive to these elements would be well advised to stay away. My spouse has had depression issues and tried to commit suicide as a teen. She refuses to see this and I will not press her on this obviously.

    (SPOILER!!!!)

    My only complaint (as someone with a geology degree) is that the geologist dies first! :( And no…she is not a linguist or an anthropologist as some reviewers reported. She is a geomorphologist studying the effect of the Shimmer on the natural magnetic field produced by the Earth. A geophysicist would be a better fit for the work, but still entirely plausible.

  • deirdre

    They did make better movies. Blade Runner really was one of those better movies. However, accessibility is not going to go hand in hand with quality all of the time, and a lot of drek is readily “accessible”. And sure, Black Panther was fun. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is not going to be generating think pieces much beyond the next Marvel movie release, however you or I may have enjoyed it. It is a formula superhero movie when all is said and done. it has better writing and some witty cliche inversions to be sure (the single white guy sidekick cliche poke was a nice touch), but still a superhero movie.

  • Bluejay

    We can argue about which movies are “better” all day. But the IndieWire article being discussed here is about box office, and argues that audiences are to blame for certain films tanking and making the studios think such films are a risk. But as MaryAnn points out, audiences have no problem supporting smart, challenging, or auteur-driven films. They showed up for Arrival and Fences. They showed up for Christopher Nolan’s films, even the non-Batman ones. They showed up for ScarJo’s Lucy even if they didn’t show up for ScarJo’s Ghost in the Shell. They showed up for Aronofsky’s Black Swan even if they didn’t show up for Aronofsky’s mother!. And you may think Black Panther is a safe popcorn-movie bet, but Hollywood has long believed that “black films” were financial risks that wouldn’t play internationally; obviously audiences have shown up to this as well. So the argument that audiences don’t like “risky” films, and that this is why studios are afraid to make them, is BS.

    However, accessibility is not going to go hand in hand with quality all of the time, and a lot of drek is readily “accessible”.

    This may be true. But it’s also true that some “accessible” films have more going on beneath the surface than you might think. It’s also true that other films may THINK they’re being smart and radical and challenging, but really they’re just being pretentious, and are more beholden to tired tropes and unexamined cultural assumptions than they realize.

    It is not going to be generating think pieces much beyond the next Marvel movie release

    Well, when you read or hear Black Panther mentioned in the coming years — how its success influenced Hollywood, how its themes remain relevant to conversations on race, history, and politics, how it had a huge childhood impact on the artists creating our entertainment in the 2020s and 2030s — I hope you remember you said this. :-)

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  • deirdre

    “So the argument that audiences don’t like “risky” films, and that this is why studios are afraid to make them, is BS.”

    Really. The Shawshank Redemption, The Fountain, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Children of Men, the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the first Blade Runner movie and quite a few others I’m missing might want to have a word with you. Of course, a several of these became hits well AFTER they were released and failed at the box office…but that is another subject.

    We get inundated with crap like the Fast and Furious franchise because it sells, and we are denied smart movies because studios are afraid to make them and they are afraid to market them.

  • Bluejay

    You can always cherry-pick a list of risky films that flopped; I just gave you a list of risky films that succeeded. Keep in mind also that people forget that some films that turned out to be massively popular were once seen as risky bets. Star Wars was a risky bet; Rocky was a risky bet;
    Guardians of the Galaxy got a lot of hand-wringing as “Marvel’s first flop.” But then they succeed and are seen as “mainstream” and inevitable, and Hollywood gets caught up trying to imitate past successes and forgets to take new risks, believing they’ll always fail.

    I don’t see how anything I’ve said contradicts itself. When I said Hollywood believes smart films and “black films” are too risky to make because audiences won’t show up, I don’t mean that Hollywood is RIGHT. We DO show up for smart films and/or diverse films. (You mention the Fast and Furious series, which — whatever its quality — disproves Hollywood’s old and persistent idea that audiences wouldn’t show up for a majority-nonwhite cast. It’s huge with audiences, INCLUDING in China.)

    Of course, a several of these became hits well AFTER they were released and failed at the box office…but that is another subject.

    No, that’s actually relevant. If audiences discovered and loved these films after their initial runs, then you can’t say that the films were simply too challenging for audiences. The problem was with the marketing.

    Sometimes risky films flop because of poor or nonexistent marketing (see also: Princess Bride), because their budgets should have been smaller, and a host of other reasons — including that, sometimes, they simply aren’t good. The audience has no obligation to go see mother! so that films like mother! can be made, as the article argues. Make good films and market them well. That’s not a guarantee of success, but blaming moviegoers is pointless.

    When was the last time you saw a good romcom at the box office before it arrived at Redbox?

    Last summer. The Big Sick.

  • deirdre

    If audiences discovered and loved these films after their initial runs, then you can’t say that the films were simply too challenging for audiences. The problem was with the marketing.

    But that is the exact point!! The article specifically mentions that the core audience for this film seems to be waiting for it to show up on Netflix and that is largely due to the utter lack of marketing or concern showed by the studio!

    ,The Big Sick.

    Not a romcom IMHO, although it seems to have been sort of marketed as one. This link here discusses this in more http://www.businessinsider.com/why-movie-studios-no-longer-make-romantic-comedies-2017-8detail.http://www.businessinsider.com/why-movie-studios-no-longer-make-romantic-comedies-2017-8

    Money line:A big factor is the studios realized that comic book movies were where the money was (especially overseas, where rom-coms rarely ever make coin).

    I think this is the problem we see where smart movies that are not going to be tentpole money makers are being neglected. Annihilation is a prime example.

  • deirdre

    If anyone is even remotely interested, here is my extended take on Annihilation at Facebook. In the comments, I have an extended discussion with one of my former geology professors from Guilford College, Dr Dave Dobson.

    https://www.facebook.com/annemarie.dickey.3/posts/10204154664823180?comment_id=10204154666703227

  • Bluejay

    The article specifically mentions that the core audience for this film seems to be waiting for it to show up on Netflix

    Where in the article does it say, or offer evidence, that the core audience is WAITING for it to come to Netflix? It seems to be saying that fans are COMPLAINING that it’s coming to Netflix, instead of to theaters.

  • deirdre

    Where in the article does it say, or offer evidence, that the core audience is WAITING for it to come to Netflix? It seems to be saying that fans are COMPLAINING that it’s coming to Netflix, instead of to theaters.

    It does both, and I am going to disagree with the article when the author says Paramount should not be blamed for not wanting to support the movie (um, they tried to gut it in post production) Anyways, last line in the article (which, to be fair, is aimed not only at this movie but at all art house type productions)

    If moviegoers want to send a message to studios that they want to see these movies in wide release, they need to make the commitment to get out of the house and save Netflix for later.

  • deirdre

    Going to be out for a bit. I have enjoyed the conversation though. :) Thanks.

  • Bluejay

    The inverse is just as true, isn’t it? You can always list risky films that managed to succeed just as you did?

    Hey, no fair going back to insert a new argument into an old post, which then makes it look like I didn’t have a response to it. If you think of something new to add (especially after I’ve responded), please add it in a new post.

    Yes, I cherry-picked too, but that’s to prove the point that studios are wrong to place a blanket blame on lack of audience interest for the failure of risky films. Because, look, here we are, showing interest in these risky films!

  • Bluejay

    Yes, I saw that line, but I don’t agree with it and I don’t think it’s well-supported. Arthouse film aficionados will make the effort to see good art films in theaters. And as you said, Annihilation is not an arthouse film on an indie budget. Paramount wanted this to reach a mass audience and therefore should have made a bigger marketing push for it. The fact that they got scared and didn’t, can’t be blamed on the idea of lazy moviegoers preferring Netflix.

    Again, as MaryAnn points out, Paramount has been losing money on the big tentpole films that they thought were sure bets (while MAKING money on smaller/challenging/diverse films like Arrival and Fences). So their whole aversion to “risky” films, the idea that they know what audiences actually want, is, at the very least, problematic and should be thoroughly questioned.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    Compare the two trailers for Annihilation:

    Trailer 1:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufaDurSCKOk
    That looks interesting. I want to see this!

    Trailer 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89OP78l9oF0
    LOUD METALLIC SLAMMING NOISES!! Ouch. Looks ghastly.

    I showed the second trailer to friends and they vomited. Then I showed them the first trailer and they changed their minds. Now they won’t have to face the daunting challenge of actually going to the theatre.

  • Well, that sucks. I guess I’ll have to wait a few months for netflix Bluray or something. Oh, well.

  • RogerBW

    The trailers I saw sent me a very clear message: hey, Arrival made money, let’s rip that off! And give it to Alex Garland, because people think he’s “intellectual” but he doesn’t put any of that actual difficult thinky stuff in his films. Only let’s add the expendable meat being killed off one by one, because that’s a horror cliché and audiences love horror clichés.

    Yes, Paramount, it’s all theaudience’s fault that you literally cannot make a popular film. Big studios aren’t the right place to make thoughtgul films anyway, and haven’t been for years; at the best you get meh like Blade Runner Dug Up and Dusted Off With a Younger Prettier Actor, and usually it’s garbage like Ex Machina.

  • clayjohanson

    Y’all keep saying “Paramount”, but the real villain here, if there is one, is producer David Ellison (Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s son), who’s one of the financiers at Paramount. (Obviously playing poker with Daddy’s money.) He’s the one who demanded that the movie be dumbed down — when producer Scott Rudin turned him down on all counts, the compromise they struck was that the movie would only go theatrical in the US and China and go streaming everywhere else, to save the cost of wide theatrical release. Ellison’s CV as a producer is pretty long, despite being only 35 years old — he has a lot of successful movies under his belt, as well as some stinkers. I’d argue that a movie like “Annihilation” should never have been financed by someone like him, whose main goal seems to be NOT losing money.
    The producers of “Blade Runner 2049”, Johnson and Kosove of Alcon, weren’t as worried about “BR2049” because they’re apparently both huge fans of the original movie and their inner geeks demanded that they do whatever was required to have a good sequel.

  • Also, make better movies *cheaper.* *BR2049 cost more than $150 million. That’s ridiculous.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Out of curiosity, I went and looked some things up. The original Blade Runner’s budget was about $28M, or about $80M in 2017 dollars. So about half the cost of BR’49. It’s domestic gross was almost exactly its budget (it’s added another $5M in re-release, but I can’t find how much was spent on all those re-cuts, and I suspect the theatrical box office is a net loss.

    So, on the one hand, a Blade Runner sequel 30 years late was never going to recoup that kind of investment.

    On the other hand, both Blade Runner movies required the creation of a convincing world to work at all, and that kind of effects work is labor intensive and therefore expensive.

    Basically, this movie was a bad idea from start to finish.

    Side note: Two genre films were top-10 grossers that year: E.T. and Star Trek II. Those films were made for about $11M each (about $30M today). However, E.T. isn’t really all that effects heavy, and Star Trek save a lot of money by reusing a lot of material from Star Trek: TMP (sets, props, models, even whole effects sequences).

  • Bluejay

    Totally agree, but I wonder where they can cut costs, especially for effects-heavy films. Black Panther had a $200M budget, and I’m glad it all shows onscreen; and in light of its billion-dollar box office, it’s easy to say the costs were worth it. But we’d be having a different conversation about budget if it had tanked.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You can see every penny spent on BR’49, and I don’t know that they could have made it for much cheaper. (In fact, $150M is a bargain price.)

  • deirdre

    Awesome. Have more popular super hero movies.

  • deirdre

    Fans have been begging for a sequel for decades, In any event, it really is a niche art sci fi movie that did not have a super hero or Star Wars pedigree to sell it. Unfortunate for those of us who want more cerebral science fiction.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Sure, the exact same fans, evidently: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=bladerunnersequel.htm&adjust_yr=1982&p=.htm (That’s BR’49’s box office adjusted to 1982 dollars. It’s almost exactly the take of the original.)
    Also, Villeneuve had just made more money on a third of the budget with better material almost exactly one year earlier. The problem with Br’49 isn’t pedigree or cerebral-ness.

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