Yes, today’s Mad Hatter Awards do come from quotes in the magazine/site Entertainment Weekly, and the last batch did too. Sometimes it just works out that way. Today’s winners aren’t perhaps worthy of full awards. More like they just get tea scones because they are being annoying.
The Runner Up Scone goes to is actor Mark Ruffalo, who is a nice actor and is in the film The Kids are All Right, about which he says, “It wasn’t thought of in a boardroom or in a focus group before it was written. It wasn’t made to sell toys or videogames. A lot of movies are put together through marketing. That’s why there are so many s… movies out there.”
1) Indie movies are not automatically brilliant over studio generated films. In fact, many of them are totally crappy.
2) While the movie was made for a low budget, it had high-powered investors, two powerhouse stars, and is being distributed by Focus Features which is a division of Universal Pictures and also did Brokeback Mountain to huge success, meaning that unlike most indie pictures, it will actually see the inside of multiplex theaters and make back its budget on opening weekend even if it’s not a big hit. The film is about two hot looking lesbians and their good looking children, and one of the hot lesbians then sleeps with the kids’ cute biological father (Ruffalo.) So while I’m quite sure the film did indeed come from the screenwriters/director’s heart and was not cooked up in a boardroom, the decision to distribute it however did indeed have to do with marketing and focus groups, festival style, if not toys, and pretending that does not go on just because toys aren’t involved seems to imply that people who also like smaller pictures about complicated relationships (and hot lesbians who might do a guy,) are not smart enough to realize that Hollywood also market manipulates them too.
3) Mark Ruffalo starred earlier in his career in Mirror, Mirror 2 and Mirror, Mirror III, schlock horror movies, has taken a stab at t.v., and he starred in 13 Going on 30, Just Like Heaven and Rumor Has It, three rom com films that, while again not involving toys, were designed in a boardroom with focus groups (let’s remake Big with a female!) and while not perhaps s… movies (they were pleasant enough,) certainly don’t give him a lot of height to his horse to look down from. Additionally, he was recently in Date Night, another big, marketing designed comedy, and Where the Wild Things Are, which, whatever indie bonafides you want to give to its director or creator Sendak, was also used to sell a lot of toys, merchandise and a videogame for Warner Brothers.
4) His co-star Annette Bening was going to be Catwoman in Batman 2, a movie created to sell videogames and toys, until Warren Beatty knocked her up and the role went to Michelle Pfeffer instead. (Okay, so that has minimal relevance, but it does make the point that actors will be doing many types of films if they are lucky.)
Quite simply, Ruffalo has kids. At some point, he’s probably going to be doing the voice for a character in a kids animated feature film. So his comment here about The Kids are All Right just makes him and the movie sound obnoxious instead of heartwarming.
The Chief Scone, however, goes to Leonardo DiCaprio, who is in the hot buzz SF film of the summer, Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan (who directs the current Batman movies, which are used to sell lots of toys and videogames.) What we know of the film is relatively simple — thieves enter people’s dreams in a tricky and risky manuever to steal their ideas. But DiCaprio wants us to know that it’s even simpler than that:
“…it has elements of sci-fi, but the sci-fi isn’t something the audience can’t relate to.”
If you are under the age of 50 (and pretty much even if you’re over 50,) and live in the U.S. or general Western world, you’ve spent your life saturated in science fiction, fantasy, supernatural horror and superheroes, and likely SFF videogames as well. It surrounds us in the culture. It’s the center of most of the biggest, most famous movies in our history, and a good chunk of plays, t.v. and literature. We know it intimately. So why do we continually have film and t.v. makers and actors seeking to reassure us that the most common stories we experience are not going to be strange, hard and confusing to us? Leo, dude, it’s 2010. Sure, back when you were doing Critters 3 and t.v. shows like Growing Pains, you might have mistakenly thought such stories were too deep for most audiences, but by now you should know better. (And wouldn’t it be cool if a journalist actually did ask DiCaprio if the movie was more accessible than Critters 3?)
Apparently, these actors and the studio publicists who instruct them still feel that the best way to get people interested in a movie is to tell the audience that they are stupid, timid, merchandising driven zombies but they should go see the movie anyway. It’s the shaming technique. And it continues to ignore the very culture that these actors and studios helped build. Which is obviously the result of marketing consultants and focus groups, and so these poor actors are being deluded by what they are denouncing into denouncing it. So they only get a scone today. But when Ruffalo gets his own action figure for a film, I’m going to laugh.