Blog Post 4: Non-Believers of Yesterday, Fantasy, and Tomorrow

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“Disneyland” by DisneyKrayzie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Walt Disney was a visionary. It is easy to say it now with over 50 years of hindsight, but it wasn’t always this way. When Walt was building his original Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, California, he faced major backlash from many at his company, who considered his dreams to be far too expensive and risky to undertake. It is hard to imagine what betting against Walt Disney must have been like, because in modern times nobody would have been that bold. 

Building Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom in 1955 cost Walt a reported $50 million at the time. The Disney company had been insanely successful thanks to a slew of feature length, fully animated box office hits. Disney certainly had the financial capacity to pull off the project, and it definitely had the creative talent to make Walt’s dreams come true. It was just a matter of rooting for the home team. 

But what if Disneyland had failed? The Disney company would have been in quite a sticky situation. They would have had a massive development on their hands that required enormous amounts of staff, maintenance, and care. Not only this, but they would have had to find a way to return millions of dollars that had been used to build the park. 

The first month after Disneyland opened, this looked like a strong possibility. Nobody showed up. The public began to panic but Walt believed in his vision and said that eventually people would come. What actually happened was that people were so concerned that Disneyland would be so popular, they didn’t want to go out of the fear of massive crowds. Once it was reported that this wasn’t the case, attendance at the park grew and everything was right in the Magic Kingdom. 

What would the consequence of failure meant for Walt and his company? We would have never seen films based on rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean. It would have also of course been the end for his theme park hopes. The Walt Disney Company would have returned to being just a film studio. We would have never seen expansion into Florida or the rest of the world. Walt Disney Magic Kingdom’s would have forever remained what they once began as: a dream. 

Blog Post 3: This Film is Not a Joke

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“Joker 2019” by Kaexi Ng is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

All previous blogs have been about Disney and Marvel’s success at the box office. But for the first time this year another studio has been successful. Warner Brothers has stolen  the spotlight from Disney with their newest film, Joker (Phillips, 2019). The film may be about a maniacal clown, but it has been no joke at the box office. The most important and fascinating aspect of Joker is that it isn’t even a part of the DC Cinematic Universe. It is a completely standalone film, yet it succeeded at the box office. How is it possible that a superhero film outside of a cinematic universe succeeds?

Up to the weekend of October 26, Joker had already grossed more than Batman vs Superman (Snyder, 2016) worldwide at $571 million vs $543 million. The main takeaway from this film is that Warner Brothers should not focus on trying to create a cinematic universe to rival Marvel. Warner Bros, and every other studio for that matter, should focus on making unique, creative movies and perhaps telling good stories.

Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips both have some star power, but nowhere near the name recognition of Ben Affleck or Zack Snyder. The success of Joker was not dependent on stars like most movies. It has been successful because of an established character and controversial promotional material. The film’s promotional material, whether intentionally or not, sparked great controversy around the US. People feared that it would inspire mass shootings at screenings of the film. Of course the film did not openly advocate for this but it received a lot of press from the public outcry. Joaquin Phoenix left interviews because he didn’t like the lines of questioning about the film’s potential to incite violence. It may have been genuine anger from Phoenix, or a very successful and unethical PR tactic, but either way the film succeeded thanks to this. 

Joker is the perfect example that shows it doesn’t take a huge budget to produce massive results. Joker only cost $70 million in comparison to Batman vs Superman which cost a reported $250 million. Controversies surrounding the content in Joker helped cement it as a chaotic and disruptive film in the oversaturated superhero genre. If there is anything to learn from this, it is that making a good and successful movie is possible for studios other than Disney, and that cinematic universes are not a necessity to succeed at the box office. 

 

Works Cited:

                Box Office: ‘Joker’ Passes ‘Batman,’ ‘Superman Returns,’ Nears ‘Justice League’ With $550 Million. https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbean/2019/10/15/box-office-joker-passes-batman-superman-returns-nears-justice-league-with-550-million/#1fae3a991e30. Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.

                Joaquin Phoenix Walks Out of Joker Interview (Report) | PEOPLE.Com. https://people.com/movies/joaquin-phoenix-leaves-interview-after-being-asked-if-joker-will-inspire-violence-report/. Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.

“Joker.” Box Office Mojo, https://bit.ly/2PxLpgP Accessed 30 Oct. 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Post 2: Gender and Diversity in a Galaxy Far Far Away

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“Kathleen Kennedy” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Some presidents succeed, some presidents fail, but the true measure of a president is how they deal with troubling times. That is unless you are female. This does not only apply to the role of POTUS but any real position of power. Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most powerful and successful producers in all of Hollywood. As the president of LucasFilm she gets blamed for all the failings of the new Star Wars films, and gets little glory from their successes. This is in contrast to her colleague, Kevin Feige, who is seen to be the perfect producer who can do no wrong. 

Kevin Feige has been involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first X-Men movies. He is currently producing 10 confirmed films as well as countless Marvel TV shows for Disney+. However, given that Star Wars is currently struggling with fans, Bob Iger is desperate and wants Feige to do Kathleen Kennedy’s job. 

Kennedy has produced dozens of classic sci-fi movies including E.T. (Spielberg, 1982) and Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1994), but also Best Picture nominees like Lincoln (Spielberg, 2012) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, 2008). She certainly has the credentials that prove that she can do the job, but why do so many fans blame her for the failure of Star Wars? 

Most fans blame her simply because of her gender. Their main argument is that as a woman she simply does not care about the source material as a man. Not only is this claim only based on sexism, it is simply untrue. Unlike Kevin Feige, Kathleen Kennedy’s films are not adaptations of previous work. The new Star Wars trilogy pays homage to the original films constantly and respectfully. Rogue One (Edwards, 2016) is entirely based on a plothole from A New Hope (Lucas, 1977). In fact, Feige should be getting less credit for his success. After all Stan Lee was the one who established all the characters and storylines Feige gets to use. 

Fans also feel that Kennedy is promoting a social agenda in the films. The most obvious evidence of this is the casting choices in the new trilogy. In this respect they are not completely wrong. Kennedy has definitely cast many diverse actors, yet the creative talent behind the camera remains white and mostly male. However, the solution to this was clearly not hiring 50 women at LucasFilm for no other reason than diversity. John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, and Diego Luna are considered to serve only as diversity castings for the new franchise rather than serve a purpose for their character. But that is exactly the point! The cast is diverse for the sole purpose of proving that not every being in an entire galaxy far far away is white and heterosexual. Nobody seems to complain about the diversity of alien races in the films, but will run to Twitter to harass the actors because they aren’t white.

The worst part about this discussion is that Kennedy has only failed at the box office once with the release of Solo (Howard, 2018). Kevin Feige has had similar returns with the Ant-Man films at the box office, and creatively with Thor: the Dark World (Taylor, 2013) and The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008). Yet Kennedy is blamed for the poor decisions made by Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi (2017) that completely disregarded J.J. Abrams’ storylines in Episode 7. This happened because she gave the filmmakers complete freedom to fulfill their vision. It worked with Abrams and Gareth Edwards, but failed with Johnson. If anybody is to blame about failed diversity and misunderstanding the source material it should be on Abrams and Johnson, not on the producer who trusted and gave them the freedom to do so.

It has gotten to the point where fan reactions of Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars are so toxic that Bob Iger has decided to intervene. There have been many course corrections behind the scenes at LucasFilm already such as the quiet cancellation of Rian Johnson’s spinoff trilogy, the firing of Colin Trevorrow, as well as greenlighting the highly demanded Obi-Wan TV series. But most significant to this discussion is Kevin Feige producing a Star Wars film himself. The hope seems to be that Feige will be able to work his magic on Star Wars and improve fan perception. It is easy to find Bob Iger’s lack of faith in Kennedy disturbing and it is incredibly damning to see Iger fail to trust her instincts simply due to fan reactions. George Lucas gave us a new hope at diversifying Hollywood when he appointed Kennedy as president. Let’s hope we see the return of the truly powerful Kathleen Kennedy in cinemas this winter. 

 

Blog Post 1: The $22 Billion Dollar Snap

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“Captain Marvel / End Title Sequence” by Nadia Tzuo, Takayuki Sato, Gabriel Perez, Carlo Sa

Marvel has become the undisputed champion of the modern box office. It holds 3 out of the 5 spots top spots for the highest grossing films of 2019. It has become so successful that if any of their films fail to join the once elite billion-dollar club it is considered a failure. As if that wasn’t enough, they were finally able to dethrone the self-proclaimed “King of the World”, James Cameron, when Avengers: Endgame became the top grossing film of all time.

So why has Marvel been able to keep smashing box office records, while other studios struggle to keep up? It is undeniable that Marvel has become the biggest brand in Hollywood history. Marvel churns out blockbusters as effortlessly as Meryl Streep gets Oscar nominations. To date it has grossed over $22 billion worldwide while the film rights only cost Disney $4.24 billion. The good news for producer Kevin Feige is that fan interest is the only limit on the size of his bank account. Although Kevin Feige has produced every Marvel film, he isn’t the reason Disney can lay claim to those riches. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the decision of an executive at another studio: Sony Pictures.

“Nobody gives a shit about any of the other Marvel characters…go back and do a deal for only Spider-Man.”

In one of the worst business decisions of all time, a Sony executive turned down the greatest movie deal in history. In 1998, Marvel offered Sony the film rights to all Marvel characters for $25 million. The executive who was negotiating with Marvel recalled his boss’ reaction to Marvel’s offer in a Wall Street Journal article. His boss responded by saying “nobody gives a shit about any of the other Marvel characters…go back and do a deal for only Spider-Man.” That Sony executive must wish he had Pym Particles to travel back in time to before he snapped the GDP of Belize out of his pocket with one rash decision.

It is still unclear whether Marvel’s box office successes can continue in the long run as even they have had struggles in the past. It may seem that success is almost guaranteed with the announcements of Phase 4, but this is not true. The 2018 film Ant-Man and the Wasp still failed in comparison to other Marvel films. It was still considered a critical and audience success but did not earn anywhere near films like Spiderman: Far From Home or Captain Marvel. Another challenge Disney faces once again involves Sony. Disney and Sony are currently fighting for the rights to Spiderman. Yet with the unprecedent success at the box office, it would be easier for Disney and Feige to buy out Sony Pictures than to negotiate with the executives that passed on Marvel in the first place.

Some Assembly Required

Assemblies

(This Blog Posts alternatively titled “How to Pass English 101 with Professor Morgen”)

As per usual, I decided to test how I could possibly turn an assignment into a humorous and perhaps unrealistic approach to storytelling. With this particular assignment, I decided that I had to recreate my thought process for most my assignments this semester (and to be fair, it isn’t very far from the truth). Looking back at all of my work this semester as a whole was very interesting because I realized that I did some work that I actually really liked and had forgotten about, Horny the Elephant and my Red Highlights Found Poem being the standouts for me. If anyone really wanted a blueprint for how I created most of my work this semester, this is probably the best thing I could give them. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised as to how in depth I went with the steps in the assignment.