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Mainstream cinema - is it an area of cinema that is unfairly maligned? [Talking Images]

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filmbantha
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Mainstream cinema - is it an area of cinema that is unfairly maligned? [Talking Images]

#1

Post by filmbantha » June 27th, 2020, 6:26 pm

Hi all,

What are your thoughts on mainstream cinema; how would you classify it and is it primarily trash or are there mainstream films with artistic merit?

Is it an area of film that you actively avoid, delve into from time to time or try to keep up with?

Are there any examples of groundbreaking/challenging films that can be considered mainstream?

These are a selection of the topics that we discuss in the latest episode of Talking Images, "Mainstream Cinema: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly".
You can listen here:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3oOBxUsLfX6T1MgRxT30dk

Sounder: https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... eam-cinema

It also gives me great pleasure to welcome Teproc as a co-host for the very first time.

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#2

Post by sol » June 28th, 2020, 1:57 pm

I really enjoyed discussing this topic, especially the question of whether "mainstream cinema" actually exists other than in one's mind. Certainly, I think it is at least a flexible term (what is and is not mainstream evolves over time).
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#3

Post by blocho » June 28th, 2020, 4:18 pm

Finished listening. Another solid episode. Perhaps having fewer people can be an advantage. Not sure about it, though.

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#4

Post by sol » June 29th, 2020, 10:37 am

Really enjoyed re-listening to this podcast. It would great to hear some feedback from other forum users about what we discussed (does "mainstream" really exist; are big budgets a blessing; do animated series just build on themselves). I also really enjoyed the format here. Sounded A LOT to me like a friendly conversation with plenty of back-and-forth, rather than a structured questionnaire of sorts, which some of the episodes with multiple guests feel like to me at times.
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#5

Post by St. Gloede » June 29th, 2020, 11:19 am

Really sad I did not participate in this one (save cameo), but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the conversation as I was editing it. Almost nothing ended up on the cutting room floor, it was such a natural conversation.

I really liked Sol's point on having an easier time separating and understanding what is "mainstream" based on budget and scope, and big budget films are certainly a brand of cinema upon itself. Yes, sometimes we can be shocked by the effects a smaller budget film can manage to bring forth, but the freedom in being able to craft entire worlds, almost in the amount of details you wish, is truly something I'm happy we have and can see - even though many of the films in the end don't cherish or utilize the potential they have.

I have always been a little confused as to why major film franchises for instance, where people will go to see the films almost no matter what, for so long rarely give the "summer blockbuster" films to more interesting or creative talent.

This is, however, one thing that has to some extent changed. If we look at some of the directors that took on everything from the last few James Bond films, to the Marvel films, or even the DC films, we actually that several are fairly well-regarded. It doesn't necessarily make the films great, and for some directors it may seem to have an unfortunate effect on the type of films they might make, but Sam Mendes or Taika Waititi ended up competing for best picture just last year.

This might be generalizing too much but there seemed to use to be more of a divide between the well-regarded big budget directors and smaller "serious" directors, and say the standard action fare. Yes, you had respected directors within the genre, such as say Spielberg, Cameron, etc. but these films were often seen (perhaps snobbily so) as separate from the rest of the summer blockbuster fare. However, today it seems to not too unusual for a director with one or two sleeper hits to suddenly get a blockbuster offer, and it is also not that unusual for them to accept. - which can either lead to a more mainstream career or a springboard for other films (or a crash and burn).

Obviously it is not on the same scale budget or "mainstream" wise, but it is for instance really interesting that David Lowery did "Disney's Pete's Dragon" with Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, before he did the extremely challenging arthouse hit A Ghost Story, or, on a different scale Joss Whedon did his black and white Much Ado About Nothing between Avengers 1 and 2. The boxes (that I might be imagining) don't quite seem to be there anymore.

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#6

Post by brokenface » June 29th, 2020, 12:42 pm

St. Gloede wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 11:19 am
I have always been a little confused as to why major film franchises for instance, where people will go to see the films almost no matter what, for so long rarely give the "summer blockbuster" films to more interesting or creative talent.

This is, however, one thing that has to some extent changed. If we look at some of the directors that took on everything from the last few James Bond films, to the Marvel films, or even the DC films, we actually that several are fairly well-regarded. It doesn't necessarily make the films great, and for some directors it may seem to have an unfortunate effect on the type of films they might make, but Sam Mendes or Taika Waititi ended up competing for best picture just last year.

This might be generalizing too much but there seemed to use to be more of a divide between the well-regarded big budget directors and smaller "serious" directors, and say the standard action fare. Yes, you had respected directors within the genre, such as say Spielberg, Cameron, etc. but these films were often seen (perhaps snobbily so) as separate from the rest of the summer blockbuster fare. However, today it seems to not too unusual for a director with one or two sleeper hits to suddenly get a blockbuster offer, and it is also not that unusual for them to accept. - which can either lead to a more mainstream career or a springboard for other films (or a crash and burn).

Obviously it is not on the same scale budget or "mainstream" wise, but it is for instance really interesting that David Lowery did "Disney's Pete's Dragon" with Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, before he did the extremely challenging arthouse hit A Ghost Story, or, on a different scale Joss Whedon did his black and white Much Ado About Nothing between Avengers 1 and 2. The boxes (that I might be imagining) don't quite seem to be there anymore.
I haven't listed to podcast, so apologies if repeating ground on there, but I see it more as a change in the role of director in terms of what they actually do on these films. So yes we do now get indie/arthouse directors on Marvel films, but the films are very much centrally produced by the studio and the amount of creative freedom the directors have is limited. From what I understand, in many cases now all the action sequences/CGI parts are pretty much out of the hands of the credited director. This is why you can now go straight from directing 1 or 2 minor indie hits to some huge blockbuster. Previously they'd get directors who would have had to prove themselves somewhat in directing action films, and probably in the process pigeonhole themselves as action directors, now it's all greenscreen that part has gone.

It's become quite a mutually beneficial relationship where the studio (Marvel or whoever) gets a bit more critical credibility for having the indie directors and the indie directors can bolster their name (& earnings!) by doing them - but the film is basically a studio product with the director more just adding a bit of flavour. They are not taking big risks with these franchises, and some directors that got too far out of the studio line ended up ditched (e.g. Edgar Wright for Ant-Man, the Lego Movie directors who originally did Solo).

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#7

Post by Lonewolf2003 » July 2nd, 2020, 3:51 pm

St. Gloede wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 11:19 am
Really sad I did not participate in this one (save cameo), but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the conversation as I was editing it. Almost nothing ended up on the cutting room floor, it was such a natural conversation.

I really liked Sol's point on having an easier time separating and understanding what is "mainstream" based on budget and scope, and big budget films are certainly a brand of cinema upon itself. Yes, sometimes we can be shocked by the effects a smaller budget film can manage to bring forth, but the freedom in being able to craft entire worlds, almost in the amount of details you wish, is truly something I'm happy we have and can see - even though many of the films in the end don't cherish or utilize the potential they have.

I have always been a little confused as to why major film franchises for instance, where people will go to see the films almost no matter what, for so long rarely give the "summer blockbuster" films to more interesting or creative talent.

This is, however, one thing that has to some extent changed. If we look at some of the directors that took on everything from the last few James Bond films, to the Marvel films, or even the DC films, we actually that several are fairly well-regarded. It doesn't necessarily make the films great, and for some directors it may seem to have an unfortunate effect on the type of films they might make, but Sam Mendes or Taika Waititi ended up competing for best picture just last year.

This might be generalizing too much but there seemed to use to be more of a divide between the well-regarded big budget directors and smaller "serious" directors, and say the standard action fare. Yes, you had respected directors within the genre, such as say Spielberg, Cameron, etc. but these films were often seen (perhaps snobbily so) as separate from the rest of the summer blockbuster fare. However, today it seems to not too unusual for a director with one or two sleeper hits to suddenly get a blockbuster offer, and it is also not that unusual for them to accept. - which can either lead to a more mainstream career or a springboard for other films (or a crash and burn).

Obviously it is not on the same scale budget or "mainstream" wise, but it is for instance really interesting that David Lowery did "Disney's Pete's Dragon" with Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, before he did the extremely challenging arthouse hit A Ghost Story, or, on a different scale Joss Whedon did his black and white Much Ado About Nothing between Avengers 1 and 2. The boxes (that I might be imagining) don't quite seem to be there anymore.
I heard Robert Eggers say in an interview he got an offer to direct a big blockbuster the day after he won an award for the Witch. Without them knowing anything about him, the big company people just thought that's an up and coming director we got to get him.

Which other standard action blockbuster fare are you referring to? If you with the smaller action fare are talking about the 80s-90s Stallone-Schwarzeneggerr-van Damme kind of blockbusters; these indeed kind of seized to exist nowadays, maybe only the Fast and Furious still comes close to that. Those kind of movies almost all seem straight to Netflix nowadays. In those days it were mostly the Asian directors that got offers to make those blockbusters after some international hits.

I don't think the divide between more respected directors of blockbusters and the "rest" is very different now than it was in the previous few decades (the 2000s and 90s). Now you also still have plenty not well-respected blockbusters, like Battleship, the Transformers movies, Battle for L.A. and many more. (Just look at the blockbuster list ;) )

Maybe indeed nowadays blockbusters do get offered quicker to young talented directors. Maybe that also says something about the often discussed state of cinema nowadays; either small independent movies or big blockbusters. And those kind of middle budgeted movies talented filmmakers would evolve to in previous decades exist less now.?

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#8

Post by Lonewolf2003 » July 2nd, 2020, 3:59 pm

Some feedback on the podcast itself:
I agree that the lesser participants made the conversation flow more naturally. My only little criticism is that at times the discussion delved too much in what people thought about specific films and strayed from the general discussion about "what is mainstream cinema".

I also agree it's a very hard term to define, cause it evolves all the time. But I thinks it's one of those term one uses in a casual conversation and people (kind of) understand what you refer to, so it doesn’t has to be well defined.

I most of all agreed with whoever opened the conversation (I think it was blocho) who said that there is shit in all fields of cinema, but we just notice mainstream shit more cause it's more present.

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#9

Post by blocho » July 2nd, 2020, 5:07 pm

It wasn't me because I wasn't on that episode, but I agree with the sentiment.

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#10

Post by St. Gloede » July 2nd, 2020, 5:22 pm

Filmbantha (Tom) was the host. Blocho is Adam (from NY).

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#11

Post by St. Gloede » July 2nd, 2020, 5:40 pm

brokenface wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 12:42 pm
St. Gloede wrote:
June 29th, 2020, 11:19 am
I have always been a little confused as to why major film franchises for instance, where people will go to see the films almost no matter what, for so long rarely give the "summer blockbuster" films to more interesting or creative talent.

This is, however, one thing that has to some extent changed. If we look at some of the directors that took on everything from the last few James Bond films, to the Marvel films, or even the DC films, we actually that several are fairly well-regarded. It doesn't necessarily make the films great, and for some directors it may seem to have an unfortunate effect on the type of films they might make, but Sam Mendes or Taika Waititi ended up competing for best picture just last year.

This might be generalizing too much but there seemed to use to be more of a divide between the well-regarded big budget directors and smaller "serious" directors, and say the standard action fare. Yes, you had respected directors within the genre, such as say Spielberg, Cameron, etc. but these films were often seen (perhaps snobbily so) as separate from the rest of the summer blockbuster fare. However, today it seems to not too unusual for a director with one or two sleeper hits to suddenly get a blockbuster offer, and it is also not that unusual for them to accept. - which can either lead to a more mainstream career or a springboard for other films (or a crash and burn).

Obviously it is not on the same scale budget or "mainstream" wise, but it is for instance really interesting that David Lowery did "Disney's Pete's Dragon" with Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, before he did the extremely challenging arthouse hit A Ghost Story, or, on a different scale Joss Whedon did his black and white Much Ado About Nothing between Avengers 1 and 2. The boxes (that I might be imagining) don't quite seem to be there anymore.
I haven't listed to podcast, so apologies if repeating ground on there, but I see it more as a change in the role of director in terms of what they actually do on these films. So yes we do now get indie/arthouse directors on Marvel films, but the films are very much centrally produced by the studio and the amount of creative freedom the directors have is limited. From what I understand, in many cases now all the action sequences/CGI parts are pretty much out of the hands of the credited director. This is why you can now go straight from directing 1 or 2 minor indie hits to some huge blockbuster. Previously they'd get directors who would have had to prove themselves somewhat in directing action films, and probably in the process pigeonhole themselves as action directors, now it's all greenscreen that part has gone.

It's become quite a mutually beneficial relationship where the studio (Marvel or whoever) gets a bit more critical credibility for having the indie directors and the indie directors can bolster their name (& earnings!) by doing them - but the film is basically a studio product with the director more just adding a bit of flavour. They are not taking big risks with these franchises, and some directors that got too far out of the studio line ended up ditched (e.g. Edgar Wright for Ant-Man, the Lego Movie directors who originally did Solo).
Thats a great point, and it makes complete sense, especially with the broader teams, choreographers, etc. the directors may indeed play a tinier role (though they often had a smaller role in big Hollywood productions all the way back to the golden era).

Still, the flavour has changed the game quite a bit - and to answer Lonewolf as well, yes, I was referring to the Arnie, Stallone, etc. type action films. There has been a solid quality increase.

That said, perhaps it is simply a turn back to normalcy, with more talented directors handling the big films again. The only big distinction I suppose being that it is arthouse directors being recruited (granted, there was not really major American arthouse scene in the studio era).

And I love that they tried to grab Eggert that quickly, and that he turned them down and went on to do The Lighthouse.

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