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COMMENTARY

My plea to Hollywood: Make Better Films

Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:50 PM CDT

By John Couture

I know that this sentiment has become a vein running deep and wild through my stories lately, but I think it's time to stop with the obfuscation and to just be blunt. Here goes.

Hey Hollywood, stop remaking, resequelizing and regurgitating everything that ever was and concentrate on making truly wonderful unique films.

There. That's it. A concept so simple in nature that it's actually too simple and no one in a position of power to do something about it can understand what it means.

Many times less is more. Unless of course, you're Michael Bay, then more is more and then some. Somewhere over the course of the last 20 years Hollywood went from making truly remarkable films that resonate across generations to simply mass-producing the same old movie of the week that is forgotten just as quickly.

I know that I've mentioned this either directly or indirectly time and time and time again, but this time I'm not going to harp so much on the negative, so much as praise something good.

I know that many of you have given up on Hollywood. You have rightfully pointed out that the fountain of original ideas has dried up and what we are left with are sequels to sequels to remakes of sequels (or however you'd describe The Scorpion King 2). It's hard to argue with you there because one look at the list of the top 25 grossing movies released since 2000 is pretty convincing.

Of those 25 movies, only Avatar and Finding Nemo would qualify as being completely unique (not based on a book, previous movie, comic book, toy line, etc.). Don't worry though James Cameron has promised at least two, maybe three sequels to Avatar.

As for Finding Nemo, while some might argue that Jiro Dreams of Sushi could be a logical sequel, Pixar has no official plans right now for further fishy fables.

So yeah, I get it. Hollywood wants to make money and all of the dollars over the last decade plus has gone to these type of films. The problem I have though is that instead of there being a few of these films a year, usually released during the warm months, every film being released is a retread.

And what happens when a great film does make it through the cracks and sees the light of day? It's squashed and elbowed out of the way much like bigger plants hogging up all the sunshine killing the little plants under it.

Case in point: Safety Not Guaranteed. My wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on June 10 and wanted to see a movie in celebration. Before you criticize me about my lack of romance, we have a seven month old baby at home, so trust me, this counts as major romance in our books.

We were both digging the vibe of the film from the previews and features that we saw online before its release and figured this would be a nice break from the Summer action-packed, batteries not included, testosterone charged fare that was reigning supreme at the old box office. As the day closed in, we were getting giddy with excitement. I'm sure some of this was solely due to the three or so hours of childless freedom we were going to experience, but a lot of it was the result of finally getting to see a movie that we were both excited to see.

Now, here's the rub. We live outside of Nashville, Tennessee which is as far from the hicks as you can be in the South, but we are a far cry short of the indie film palaces of New York and L.A. Now, don't get me wrong, we have two really cool art house theaters in the area in The Belcourt and The Franklin Theatre, but for whatever reasons neither theater chose to show Safety Not Guaranteed.

Online research confirmed my fears that Safety Not Guaranteed was only going to get a very limited release. The good news though is that it was playing in one theater in the greater Detroit area and we were set to head up there for a family gathering over the Fourth of July.

Naturally, we were crestfallen about our anniversary plans going up in smoke, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that in a few short weeks we would finally get to see this film. On July 2, after traveling 600+ miles, we were able to experience Safety Not Guaranteed at the wonderfully historic Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.

I say experience because that's exactly what it was. It wasn't a punch in the gut visceral experience or a mind frakking pulsating headache experience courtesy of 3D glasses, but it was definitely an experience. My wife and I both agreed that Safety Not Guaranteed was the best film that we had seen in quite some time. The film lingered in our consciousness for several days and we kept bringing it up and talking about it.

It burrowed roots deep in our minds because as I sit here writing this, I can't help but bemoan the fact that I probably won't see it again until Sony brings it out on DVD and Blu-ray in October. So yeah, a film can still have that sort of emotional response, but like the old adage goes, if a tree falls down in the woods, does it make a sound?

I really wish this film had been given a wider release because it's just the sort of quirky film that its producers had when they released Little Miss Sunshine. Aubrey Plaza is a breath of fresh air (to me, I still need to start watching Parks & Recreation) and as our guide into this odd little world she's able to make us feel her loneliness and desolation.

Mark Duplass is another actor that I need to start seeking out more. I've heard good things about Your Sister's Sister and my brother has been nagging me to watch The League for a couple of years now. In Safety Not Guaranteed, Mark personifies the word bizarre. He's a character that you start out thinking is way off and then slowly you start to care for him and ultimately by the end you're cheering for him.

I'm certainly not going to give anything about the movie away, but once you see the film, you will know how much acting chops it took for Mark to pull this off.

As for the rest of the cast, there's wonderful turns by Jake M. Johnson and newcomer Karan Soni along with several wonderful cameos that really elevate the film.

In the end, the film is all about the characters searching for something. Whether it's tangible in the form of an ex that you would like to hook up with one more time or something more esoteric like a true soul connection, the result is the same. It's the journey that is most important part and not necessarily the destination.

And so Hollywood, I implore you that if you focused more on the destination and less about the dollar signs, perhaps we would all end up as the big winners. For the rest of you, if you are fortunate enough to live in one of the cities in which Safety Not Guaranteed is currently playing (you can check here), you will not regret going to see this movie. In fact, since it's mostly likely playing in a small arthouse theater, you might even discover a new place that will truly appreciate your repeat business.

At the end of the day, I'm a realist. I know that my plea will most likely fall on deaf ears in Hollywood. They are blinded by the almighty dollar. Ah, but there's the rub. If we were to spend more of our money on these type of films, perhaps then Hollywood will notice.

Please share with us the unique films that you've enjoyed recently.

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