10 August 2006 | Cool Hand Luke
Could have been incisive but ends up forgettable
I found out about this 75 minute HBO doc in an issue of ASC. The article touted a bill of big Hollywood players; studio heads, producers and actors. I was intrigued so had to watch it.
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.