This site is about movies.
That’s pretty much the elevator pitch, so if you’re looking for Southern California zoning laws you are very lost. On the other hand, if your interest is piqued, I’ll continue.
This site is about engaging with movies. It’s about movies you like, movies you love, movies you hate, movies you hate to love, and love to hate. It’s about analyzing them, dissecting them, appreciating them, and admiring them. It’s about the details and the histories that link movies together. It’s about giving every movie – from the cheesiest b-grade to the snootiest chamber drama – equal footing to state its case and find an audience. But most of all, this site is about having fun with movies. It’s about being able to hang with the film critics without sacrificing that grin we got the first time we saw Unicron eat a planet or Charles F. Kane whisper his dying word.
It’s also about lists. Lots of them.
Film fans love lists. Most of us have a memorized list of our ten best films, or five best, or even just one holy favorite (the shortest list.) Nearly every critic has an annual list of favorites, which their readers study like scripture. The American Film Institute built fame with lists, sponsoring frequent televised countdowns of best movie lines, songs, heroes, villains, and the all-important Best American Films… twice. Want to send a movie lover into a rage? Make a list. (“Shawshank Redemption a better Steven King adaptation than Stand By Me? RAGE!”) There are lists for everything. Best superhero movie. Best silent horror film. I’d wager that if I type a random list topic into Google – say, “best John Wayne war movies” – I’d find at least one. (Actually, I found two on just the first page of results). Film and lists are so fixed together that it seems whenever a film fan isn’t watching a movie, somewhere deep down he’s making a list of reasons why.
Well, I’m a film fan, so The Hollywood Projects is my entry into the list commotion. For years, I’d considered analyzing genres or film movements through the movies of one specific director who worked in the topic. It seemed like a good idea for a while, but I found the flaw is that a director rarely spends his entire career in one particular genre, style, or… well, anything. The best directors mix it up. (Even Woody Allen made Sleeper.)
I abandoned that project, but the idea of analysis-through-director remained and blossomed into this site — ranking a director’s complete works, whether they fit together or not. By using a shared director as the guidepost, we’ll be free to compare radically different films on the same playing field. Where else can we pit Boxcar Bertha face-to-face with The Age of Innocence? Animal House meets An American Werewolf in London? Piranha 2 against the Titanic?
The process begins with the selection of a new “Project”, a director whose work I deem interesting enough to warrant the time and effort. After devoting an article to that director’s “fingerprint” – nationality, background, interests, and other vital info that might influence his or her work – I’ll analyze and count down that director’s entire filmography, from worst to first, twice a week until we’re done. After a short break, I’ll select a new Project and the process begins again.
So that’s it. It’s really pretty simple. One director, one countdown, open forum for debate.
I’ll announce the subject of the first Project on Tuesday, July 1, and start counting down the following Thursday. Feel free to stop in and join the discussion as long as you believe in our Golden Rule – movies are fun. I won’t take any film completely seriously, and I hope you won’t either. Let’s laugh and argue and debate, but above all, let’s keep it happy.
In the meantime, here are some ground rules, not-so-cleverly disguised as a FAQ.
Q: WTF, asshole? Who died and made you the authority on movies?
A: Your mom.
Wait. I feel terrible. You should demand more from a movie blogger than pithy mom jokes. I apologize but, in my defense, that’s what you get for tossing around attitude on my site. You get old schooled.
The subtle nuance in your question suggests a desire for more information about me. My profile can be found off to the side over there, but the bottom line is that I’ve devoted a good chunk of my life to loving and experiencing film. I’m the guy my friends call when they need a movie opinion. If you knew me, maybe I’d be that guy for you. Maybe not. But the beauty of this site and the entire concept of The Hollywood Projects is that I don’t need any kind of special authority to make and defend a list. Everybody has their own already.
Q: Why directors? Isn’t that a little too focused on the auteur theory?
A: Well, yes. And no. First of all, I’m calling a ban on terms like “the auteur theory” or phrases like “the mise-en-scene and diegetic sound greatly assist with the semiotics of this sequence.” I want to use real words that mean actual things, not prancy film terms that make me sound smart.
To the question: The auteur theory is the French philosophy that the director of a film is its ultimate author. In the theory, the director supercedes everyone else, including producers, writers, actors, score composers, cinematographers, art directors, editors, etc. Personally, I believe that the auteur theory is bullshit…. to a point. Film is a collaborative effort, resulting from a wild thunderstorm of talent and effort and energy that is corralled by the director. To say the director is the sole author of any film is to poop on the collective efforts of hundreds of very talented people.
Now, that being said, the director certainly has the most influence on any film. The director dips his hands into every department, guiding them to match his overall vision. Therefore, while the films of Mark Wahlberg might be all over the map, the works of Tim Burton tend to resemble each other. It’s simply easier to see the similarities and make comparisons when focused on the director.
That’s not to say I will never do a Hollywood Project on, say, the films written by Dalton Trumbo. Just that I’m not planning to anytime soon.
Q: What are the qualifications to become a Hollywood Project?
A: A director must be “artistically significant”, an intentionally broad and loose definition. To be more specific, a director must have at least three feature films on his or her CV and must either 1.) have influence on at least two decades of cinema, or 2.) be dead. That may seem as if I’m setting the limbo bar rather high, but it allows me to let in reclusive masterminds like Terrence Malick, while disqualifying some hot, new flash-in-the-pan who strung together a few hits. Plus, I don’t want to get bogged down in too many rules. Fun is king!
Q: What kinds of films count for the list?
A: I’m glad you asked, mythical question guy! I need to compare apples at least somewhat to apples, so no short films. Documentaries are fine, as long as they are feature length. Also, I will only count down films in which the director gets SOLE credit. If he or she collaborates with a co-director, that film is off the list. There’s just no way to tell how much influence each director had over the finished film.
Q: What if you finish a project, but then that director makes a new film?
A: When this happens, I will give the new film time to sink into the public consciousness (probably waiting for it to hit home video, at least), then write it up and insert it into the director’s list wherever I think it should go. No film left behind.
Any more questions? If so, drop me a line. If not, check back on Tuesday, July 1, for the first Hollywood Project kick-off!