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Bad Hollywood movies and excellent walking octopuses

Michael Blowhard’s latest posting is one of his link fests, to video clips this time. He says he now prefers internet video bits to regular Hollywood movies.

It saddens this longtime film buff to say it, but I’m having a better time these days browsing video clips on the Web than I am watching most new movies.

I know the feeling. I do not indulge in internet video clips, but I am finding the movies duller and duller as the years go by. But I do not think this is because the movies are necessarily any worse. It is just that I have learned all I want to from the movies, and I have seen all the stories. I know the formulae. I now actually tend to prefer clever movies from Europe with subtitles, because I do not know how they are going to end, and because the people in them now seem more interesting and more real. Time was when it was the subtitled movies that were dull and the Hollywood stuff that was exciting. So has Hollywood changed? I doubt it. Have I changed? That seems far more likely.

Friedrich, the other Blowhard, has a similarly low opinion of current Hollywood mainstream fare, and reckons it may be something to do with the fact that the big studios now make their real money not in the cinemas, but from DVDs, and other spin-off products such as video games. But a launch platform, to do that job well, still has to be good, does it not? If so many other kinds of business rest on these platforms, all the more reason to do them well, surely.

I tried a few of Michael’s links to video clips, although I fear that investigating the porny ones too enthusiastically would be to invite all kinds of nasty Dark Side forces to encamp themselves on my hard disc.

My favourite one was the first one linked to, which features a most unusual species of octopus:

When walking, these octopuses use the outer halves of their two back arms like tank treads, alternately laying down a sucker edge and rolling it along the ground. In Indonesia, for example, the coconut octopus looks like a coconut tiptoeing along the ocean bottom, six of its arms wrapped tightly around its body.

Apparently, this is a fairly recent discovery:

“This behavior is very exciting,” said Huffard, who first noted it five years ago in the coconut octopus but only recently was able to capture both types of octopuses on film. “This is the first underwater bipedal locomotion I know of, and the first example of hydrostatic bipedal movement.”

Although, I have to say that one of the best things about this item was how little time it took to enjoy it, unlike a Hollywood movie like Miss Congeniality 2, which is the one that Friedrich Blowhard was especially complaining about.

I really liked Miss Congeniality 1. If Miss Congeniality 2 is boring tripe, no more amusing than being told the same joke all over again, this should be no particular surprise. The surprise is when Whatever It Is 2 is really good, like with Godfather 2 or Terminator 2, or with James Bond number 2. Why? Because making a film good enough to have a sequel is very hard, and for the follow-up to be as good or better is a huge coincidence. I reckon Friedrich B was just particularly angry about MC2 and blamed all of Hollywood, instead of just the people who made MC2.

Relax, mate. Pour yourself a drink and have a look at the walking octopus.

10 comments to Bad Hollywood movies and excellent walking octopuses

  • henry

    this is the third blog that mentioned that very octopus recently. its ability to mimic other sealife is fascinating. i saw an hour long documentary (on the discovery channel) with this octopus as its subject at least a year ago- is the discovery channel available in europe?

  • Sporklift Driver

    The walking octopii look like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story.

  • Harvey

    Hollywood is just an asset bank: they find something that works and use and re-use it until it no longer works. Most movie watchers (i.e. most people who want a movie to watch simply because they don’t know what else to do with their time) are dumb as pigshit and the same ‘good guy wins, shit blows up’ routines will keep their arses firmly planted in their seats. There’s no point in ‘blaming’ them for not producing a ‘quality product’ – they produce a consistent product which is polished, has high production values, good (mostly) actors, good special effects and simple non-controversial plots. Everyone knows this is what comes out of Hollywood. The films that deviate from this routine are either very good or dire – either way you’ll know about it because all the reviewers go apeshit.

    Saying ‘Hollywood movies are dumb and predictable’ is like saying ‘processed cheese is always the same.’ Of course it’s always the same – that’s what they’re selling!

  • I have received a degree of razzing for my recent infatuation with Japanese animation (“anime”) but it is in part motivated by the same thing Brian mentioned: I’ve already seen all the stories that Hollywood is interested in telling, and I know how they all end. So he has started looking to Europe; I looked to Japan.

    I just watched the series Haibane Renmei and I can tell you truly that it was utterly innovative, totally unlike anything I had ever seen before, and among the very best things I’ve ever watched. I recommend it highly. It’s an extraordinary series, released here in the US on 4 DVDs.

    Sturgeon’s Law applies to anime just as it does to anything else, but that top 10% includes some real gems.

  • Steve

    Hollywood is perfectly capable of producing decent films – I enjoyed all the oscar-nominated films I saw this year, and I thought ‘Hotel Rwanda’ in particular was extremely important.

    That said, I do prefer films from other countries. There are no end of extremely innovative directors and actors around the World Cinema scene nowadays, and I can recommend checking out at least the top titles from this section.

    I’ve just seen ‘Sympathy For Mr Vengeance’ and ‘Oldboy’, the first two parts of Korean director Chan-wook Park’s revenge trilogy, and they were beautiful love stories, even if the violence was quite brutal. Really worth watching, and they’d never have been made by Hollywood.

  • I know that I’m at least in the top 99th percentile for intelligence(1). And I like crap movies with awesome special effects and car chases and such. I rarely see a movie, but when I do, I want to have my senses blown away. “Shadowlands” and “The Remains of the Day” were both really, really good movies. But I wished I hadn’t watched them(2). “Ice Pirates” was a terrible movie by any objective standard, but I enjoyed watching it. It made me laugh. I’ll watch a “cinema(3)” at home on my TV without any problem.

    Having said that, if you are making a movie to launch a product line, the movie doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be eye-catching. If everyone is talking about how horrible your movie is, at least they’re talking about it(4). A memorable bad movie is better than a pretty good movie that doesn’t stand out(5). Same as with commercials. That “totally aweseome” commercial for . . . uh what was it for again? is really a bad commercial. On the other hand, that really awful commercial for something that really sticks in your mind is in reality the better commercial.

    It would probably be better for movie quality if there were no tie-ins or secondary markets.

    (1) – Just because I don’t use it very much doesn’t mean it isn’t still there… does it?
    (2) – Actually, I am glad I watched Shadowlands but that’s only because I’m a big C.S. Lewis fan. The Remains of the Day was just depressing.
    (3) – I use “cinema” to refer to the movie equivalent to “literature” as opposed to just a book.
    (4) – See Box Office Numbers and All Time Top 100 Grossing Films (US) and, finally Box Office Champs Rarely Thank the Academy
    (5) – Obviously, a really good and memorable movie that stands out is better than both.


  • mike

    Speaking of european films I’m off to see Downfall (der Untergang – the film about Hitler’s last days in WW2) tommorow night, and though obviously we all know how the story ends, I’m very much looking forward to it. Has anyone seen it already?

  • JSAllison

    I don’t have hard data on this but my butt tells me that sequels fare better when they’re not being consciously done *as* a sequel. The early Bonds were done to turn books into movies, the more current dreck is just trying to mine Flemings legacy and have fallen off the cliff sharply. They can’t even come up with new Bond girls, just recycles.

    SciFi/Fantasy suffers increasingly from this habit of writing for a sequel from the beginning and the more of it that happens, the less of it I read.

  • Steve

    I haven’t seen der Untergang yet, but I’m told it’s amazing . . . please see it! We all want to know what you think! German cinema has become much better over the last decade, and although Bruno Ganz is Swiss, I’m told he’s loved in Germany. Hope it’s good!

  • Carl H.

    Sin City should be headed your way soon. Even cooler than cake-walking octopii.