Peering into the shadows of Hollywood’s past year

 

 

It was one year ago when a nation was roiled, yet hopeful. The Trump election had many people cast into an emotional Cuisinart, but for those remaining citizens we all looked expectantly at the coming year with hope and relief. “2017 can’t be as crazy, that’s for sure!”

We were so naive in our youth.

The expired year has been a political pastiche of hyperbolic reactions, and that mindset also bled over into the entertainment sector. Hollywood was not excused from the hysterics — and in many ways added to them. While one major player clearly dominated the headlines there were a number of those who also had a bad ‘17 in Dream Land. So here is a rundown of the people, events, and entities that are probably rather happy to see the calendar flip this weekend.

 

HARVEY WEINSTEIN
Let’s just get it out of the way now and address the literal 300lb gorilla in the room. Easily the biggest tale of the year was when the movie mogul was exposed by The New York Times and Ronan Farrow for his decades-long sexual rapaciousness, and his downfall sent tremors throughout the nation, not just Hollywood. Following a number of performers becoming outed as predators leaders in industry and politics soon found themselves also being held to account for their prior attacks.

As gleeful as it has been to see these lechers taken down what is surprising is that these stories even broke in the first place. This behavior has long been ingrained in the industry, and Hollywood loathes to ever apply its own lectures to us upon themselves. Even the entertainment media have been complicit in this, having previously excused/ignored the preying taking place. The amazing aspect has been the rapidity and totality of his fall from gracelessness. Weinstein has no hope of reentering this field, and his namesake company is selling off assets as it struggles to remain a concern.

 

AWARD SHOWS MELTDOWNS

Probably the worst news to shake Hollywood was last year’s Presidential election. Donald Trump’s ascendency caused so many in the entertainment realm to become untethered from reality they resembled the shrieking harridans seen in Mexican Telenovelas. Inspired by the belief that they knew what the country was feeling the glut of award shows soon after the election were filled with political prolix.

At the Golden Globes Meryl Streep gave a lauded speech where basically she bemoaned the concept of being silenced, and the need to deliver truth. A world-famous celebrity was addressing hundreds of millions — about being silenced — and dedicating herself to the truth when her job is to play fantasy roles.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards Was filled with misguided and easily dismissable outrage. Many postured against Trump’s non-existent “ban” on foreigners. In accepting the award for the cast of “Stranger Things” actor David Harbour gave a rousing speech of invective against bullies which was a direct nod at Trump. However, any hope of his impassioned cant becoming viral was eclipsed by costar Winona Ryder, who on stage appeared rather impaired and her bizarre facial reactions became a running meme for weeks instead.

Then there was the Oscar telecast. The night was choked with misbegotten lectures of foreign policy. One director sent in a speech about the abusive US policy being “inhumane; his speech was delivered from Iran. Yep. One actor declared that, since he films in numerous countries, he was himself a “migrant worker”. Then the night culminated in the infamous gaffe of announcing the wrong Best Picture winner. Quite precious those lecturing on the immigration documentation policy couldn’t handle passing off a single envelope correctly.

The ratings on all these celebratory galas were sharply lower.

 

JOSS WHEDON
It would be difficult to find the celebrity who was most adversely affected by Trump’s arrival, but Joss would have to be in the final cut. His Twitter feed was such a consistent source of unhinged nonsensical bile directed at the President that you would be excused for thinking a therapist advised him to simply type and send ANYthing that came to mind, just to purge it from his psyche. It did not end there.

In April his hatred of all things GOP led to the avowed feminist to openly mock a group of young girls visiting Paul Ryan — who were cancer survivors. On Mother’s Day, he declared he was happy his mother had passed away, so she would not see a Trump America. Later, just ahead of the Weinstein scandal, his ex-wife came forward to expose how the longtime feminist advocate was a lifelong sexual predator himself.

In November his lone professional output was on “Justice League”, where he was called in to replace departed director Zach Snyder. The tonal shifts between his work and Snyder’s was evident, and fans did not turn out for the money-losing adventure epic.

 

DISMAL SUMMER BUSINESS
At the end of the year the overall box office figures are slightly down a few percentage points from 2016. That is close enough to a margin of error for studios to excuse the numbers away. Diminished failure is largely due to recovery coming from a surprising performance by “It” in October, a vibrant “Thor” compensating for “Justice League”, and “Last Jedi” closing the year. Otherwise, it would have been a disastrous year.

The summer blockbuster frame is supposed to print money for studios, but this year it was a string of disappointments as numerous franchises were vastly weaker. The summer was more than 14% lower than last year and the total take was the lowest in over a decade. The Labor Day Day weekend saw no new releases and drew the lowest total in twenty years. When factoring in increased ticket prices and adjusting for inflation the number of tickets sold is even more disappointing.

 

JIMMY KIMMEL
After presiding over the hilariously asinine Oscar telecast the ABC talk-show comedian was trotted out to the American public as the voice of our country’s conscience. This has become a regular media ploy; use a celebrity to forward a narrative. This way a cause is legitimized and the press is excused from pushing a partisan agenda. Too bad their mouthpiece was so routinely wrong.

Kimmel used his son as a prop to pimp for the foundering Obamacare system. Following the Vegas shooting he became an anti-gun “authority” until it was revealed he was relying on the same by increasing his personal security. His son was again used to hurl condemnation at GOP politicians for supposedly threatening the CHiP health program, except the fact was GOP was not touching it and, in fact, Democrats had voted against it. Consistently he also completely bungled the Net Neutrality controversy.

And all the while demonizing the views of more than half the country he had no condemnation for the sexual assaults within his own industry.

 

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS
“Transformers: The Last Knight” was regarded as one of the notable failures of the summer, performing far worse than the rest of the series. It ranks as Paramount’s biggest hit of the year. “Baywatch”, and “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage”, were among the year’s notable bombs. “Ghost in the Shell” displeased many, and “mother!” actually managed to anger crowds.

Then there is “Monster Trucks”. The studio decided it wanted a new franchise. It decided to make a film based on the idea from a 4-year-old. It decided a budget of $150 million was needed. It was such a decisive failure parent company Viacom charged a $110 million loss against its stock — BEFORE the movie was released.

 

MATT DAMON
This was such a tough year for Damon I feel sorry for the famous millionaire who… (yea, I’ll shut up now.) Things began with “The Great Wall” a sprawling expensive epic that was laughed off for being set in Asia with a Caucasian as the lead. “Suburbicon” was scorched by critics and managed to barely earn $5 million in theaters, and he closed the year with “Downsizing” that was an environmental lecture roundly ignored.

Beyond professional challenges, Matt was caught in the Weinstein scandal. He had to routinely sidestep questions about the man he worked closely with for years, and it was reported years back when the New York Times had a story Damon reached out to the reporter on Harvey’s behalf. Recently he tried to elude responsibility by laughable saying we should talk more about men who don’t rape women.

 

R-RATED COMEDIES
It is a curiosity when a specific sub-genre is routinely beaten back by audiences. Throughout the year these adult comedies flamed out, with only a couple of successful exceptions. “Fist Fight”, “CHiPS”, “Baywatch”, “Free Fire”, “Snatched”, “Rough Night”, “The House”, “Just Getting Started”, “Father Figures”, and “Downsizing” make up a lengthy list of commonly-grouped titles which uniformly disappointed in theaters.

 

THE NETFLIX THREAT
That Americans’ viewing habits are shifting is apparent to most, and streaming is clearly the new frontier. How much it is impacting movie grosses is speculative, but the dismal summer had to be impacted by poor choices in theaters leading to more viewers choosing to binge at home. The primary reason behind the Disney buyout of 20th Century Fox is for the studio to get into the streaming game.

Meanwhile Netflix, not merely creating a new playground, has been making forays into the studio games as well. The outlet has been a new competitor in the independent film acquisition market, and it is also ramping up budgets in original productions. “Okja” was a $50 million fantasy and the Will Smith police-hybrid film “Bright” cost over $90 million. Additionally – or, amusingly — studios are looking to change awards qualification rules, as Netflix has been making limited releases into theaters in order to garner nominations, a common studio practice. What has them angered is the streaming service provider basically playing by their own rules.