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I am very interested in how Hollywood works and read Variety/Screen/Premiere, and also check out IMDb's daily news. You get a sense of the workings of the big studios but rarely do studio heads lay it out on the table, and that is where you hoped Boffo! would be revealing.
Unfortunately it plays as some sort of AFI/Oscar ceremony montage of great Hollywood movies, past and present, with the interviewees giving very OBVIOUS quotes such as "rules are there to be broken" and "success and failure balances on a very fine line." Sure, if you're a fan of film, then surely you wanna hear anything Bogdanovich, Evans, Grazer and Guber have to say. But if you want to hear some revealing comments you better off sticking to the trades.
It seems the director wanted to avoid focusing on the flops. Heaven's Gate is not mentioned ONCE. Disasters like Cutthroat Island, Battlefield Earth, Gigli, The Avengers, The Postman and Town & Country are not mentioned, yet are prime material to devour and assess. You look at these films and the main reason they flopped was because of the egos behind them: Costner, Beatty, Travolta, Cimino, Harlin. Then you have the excess of Hollywood. The extravagance of their budgets and the ridiculous costs of marketing. Somehow these topics are barely talked about. Why not venture into The Cable Guy when Columbia went nuts and gave Carrey a 20 mill pay check and changed the film industry forever?
An interesting point was made that spending more money can sometimes be a safer bet, like with Troy. Sure, it cost one or two hundred million dollars to make, but it made back double because it seemed like a sure fire winner. Compare that with Training Day, Denzel winning the Oscar, costing maybe less than a third of Troy, yet not grossing nearly as much. But these passing comments are not delved into. It's almost as if there was no structure to the filming. Let's get as many big names as we can, ask them some questions, and see what we can get in the edit. It would have been more fruitful cutting the number of people in half and focusing on a few films as opposed to allowing them run riot with pointless anecdotes on the making of Jaws which any self respecting Hollywood fan would already know about! The importance of the script, of course, is mentioned. You know why? Because it's the first thing you learn at film school, because the most important part of a film is the STORY. Sure, there are exceptions. Bad stories have made lots of money, but in general, if you look at the most successful films in the history of film, you will see most of them consist of good storytellers telling good stories.
But it is all the other factors that Boffo! could and should have focused on.
There is a great moment when Morgan Freeman is asked about The Bonfire of the Vanities, and why it flopped (despite having the box office lifetime guarantee hallmark of Tom Hanks) and whether there was any sign during production. The great Freeman is very VERY delicate with his words, pausing for what seems like a whole minute before concluding; "when an airline crashes they say that it is mostly a series of mishaps...same thing." And that my friends is the closest you will get to any sort of directed criticism made in the entire film.
More prescient is the fact that Richard Dreyfuss harks on about the importance of the story and how filmmakers today have all this great technology but do not know how to use it. It just so happens he is conducting the interview, in glorious bloody makeup on the back-lot of Poseidon, 2006's first major summer SFX flop! So all in all a big disappointment, but still containing enjoyable nuggets if only because the likes of Clooney, Dreyfuss, Freeman and DeVito are as charismatic as ever!
On a side note, if anyone wants to see how stars should be lit then look no further. ASC member Stephen Lighthill did a sterling job and made everyone look fantastic.
Here it is, the rare occasion Hollywood acknowledges what they don't know, and it still feels like one of those heraldic, schmaltzy Oscar show tribute segments (you can't wait to end), on steroids. 'Magic' is big here, ideas and thought are out. What none of them acknowledge is: you have a decent chance of calling a blockbuster before it's released; only when someone makes a movie that everyone expects to flop (but inexplicably brings home the cash - Titanic!), an execs tiny, overtaxed, barely elucidated set of film values is destabilized, warped, or tossed out the window entirely. Then 'nervousness' and 'hope' reign over the green-lighting process instead of business acumen and/or reality. As they dance around secondary causes, none of the stars can bring themselves to say, "...and the biggest problem is temperamental, know-nothing stars with colossal egos who cannot believe they're wrong, until they fail spectacularly... probably not even then."
Robert Evans, who until now had an ego with no upper boundary, has a nice moment where he confides a rather humbling moment. Oh, and Richard Dreyfuss again confirms he is the most annoying actor that has ever lived. He just can't stop acting, and fawning over himself. Rent Scorcese's clip show instead, or read the book 'Fiasco,' which places 'celebrity ego' front and center, on the pillory.
Actually what this film is lots of stars and studio execs sitting in chairs telling "witty stories" about the films that worked and the films that failed all the while trying to come across as "gee whiz" nice guys. While the stories are interesting the film quickly reveals that there isn't much of a point, or if there is one, the point doesn't require 75 minutes to have it beaten into your head. Its the sort of movie where some one says Howard the Duck and expects it to get big laughs. We also get rapid fire clips from the various movies that are suppose to illustrate the point but are too brief and fleeting to be much beyond a visual reference. Its so many people talking so briefly about so many different movies, or speaking so generally that you get no real information about anything. Yes, there are some telling remarks about life in Tinseltown but its much ado about nothing since its the equivalent to reading a book of quotes on the movies with nothing beyond the quotes. Personally, I was bored and after half an hour I picked up a magazine and began to read.
If you like movies give it a try,after all there are some good lines and confessions (George Clooney on responsibility and Brian Grazer on wishing someone else's failure) but its too long and never adds up to anything worth anything.
There is really no substance or insights in this movie. There aren't even any hard facts. It's a shame, too, because there are some really interesting people interviewed on the documentary. Too bad they just asked them the same softball clichéd questions. I would have loved to hear some insider stories, or just anything with some "meat" to it.
To sum it up it's a completely uninspired waste of time.