The Fray Goes Turin

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Feb. 7 2006 9:32 PM

Olympiad Snow

The Fray goes Turin

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

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As we reach the last week of the 2006 Winter Olympiad, Fraywatch is proud to present comprehensive coverage of the Fray's comprehensive coverage of Slate's comprehensive coverage of NBC's comprehensive coverage of Turin 2006.

Root, Root, Root for Some Team:  If the Fray is any indicator, the athletes must be one of the least-interesting features of the Olympics.  Fortunately, however, the sports haven't gone wholly unremarked.  Resident Canadians, Lono and bacon have been treating the Fray to commentary on (what else?) Olympic hockey.  British national, steelbucket takes a moment to savor his country's success in the women's tea-tray slalom.  And tmservo gives us a valuable update on the Jamaican bob-sledding.  Anyone caring to crow or keen about their team's performance, is welcome to join in on the Olympic Fray.

Fanon Ice:  On the Fray, discussion of the games has been dwarfed by discussion of Reihan Salam's provocative article "White Snow, Brown Rage."  Is huey_lewis right that the article's a joke?  Is Rudyeman right that Salam's take on the Winter Games identifies something about our post-colonial moment?  Or, as MarshallStall suggests, is it a little bit of both?  Feel free to hit the slippery slopes of race, sport, and geopolitics in our Olympic Fray.

Virtual Virtues:  While many lament the unwatchability of the games on TV, Slate writer Neal Pollack laments the unplayability of the games on Xbox.  UnnamedWill, a game developer, blames the mediocrity of Olympic video games on the paradox of game design:  "Because they don't sell well, video game makers don't put a lot of effort into making Olympics video games, and therefore the ones that are made tend to suck, and so they don't sell well."  Finger-jockey, Archytas suggests Pollack's dissatisfaction may stem from the game's title, rather than its topic.  GA ... 6:30 p.m.

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Does Hollywood do anything new these days? That is the heart of the question posed by Edward Jay Epstein's defense of The Island, the Michael Bay sci-fi actioner best known for tanking at box office last summer amidst charges of plagiarism.

Nothing new under the sun, says Brian-1:

It's hard to argue with the notion that there is something lacking in Hollywood's film slate, but originality has NEVER been its forte. Back in the days before remakes, Hollywood relied on cribbing musicals, plays, and books. It's simply moved on to television and its own back catalogue because that is what the audience is familiar with.

20yearsfromnow seems inclined to let studios off the creative hook:

Hollywood can't be faulted for behaving with fiscal prudence. Things haven't really changed much since the earliest days of movie-making.

Before there was TV, and up to the present day, the most profitable movies are based on best selling books: GWTW, TWOO, Potter, Jaws, LOTR are a few of the top earning films that quickly come to mind.

Films that introduced an entirely new cast of characters (Star Wars being perhaps the most successful) have always been the exceptions, and for the filmmaker, the biggest risk.

But no matter what the source, if the movie tells a story badly, its going to fail. Judging by the other posts, that was Island's main problem.

In an era of escalating budgets, RoboTombo offers a similar rationale for playing it safe:

The suits at the studios are primarily responsible to one constituency: their shareholders.

If it is true (and clearly it is) that movies with a built-in awareness factor are more than original material to succeed in the marketplace, then the studio suits have an obligation to their shareholders to focus their efforts on unoriginal films.

Not mentioned in the article, but equally important, is that up-front merchandising deals are far richer for known properties.

WIth the summer blockbusters, you're looking at a couple hundred million dollars per film in production and marketing expenses. The studios have a fiduiary responsibiity to maximize returns on such major investments.

So, don't look to the summer blockbusters for originality. Is this a new phenomenon? I don't think so.

On the plus side, the success of such 90's movies as Pulp Fiction has helped fuel an ever-growing market for smaller films. Studios can afford to gamble with $20 million a lot more than can with $200 million.

Look at the line-up at your typical multi-plex, and I think you'll see a pretty awesome variety of movies, not just cookie-cutter blockbusters. I'd say the variety of film that's available now is probably greater than at any time since the early 1970's.

I think the variety that we see now is a result of two different market forces coming together. The first is the success of "independent" movies in the 90's, and the second is the ever-increasing failure rate of summer blockbusters.