The History of Film
The 2010s

Part 1

Film History of the 2010s

Part 1

Film History by Decade

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| 2010s

Film Trends and Oscar Reflections For 2010:

Attendance was down at movie complexes in 2010 - it was almost 6% lower (the lowest in 15 years) than in 2009 and fewer tickets were sold (1.3 billion vs. 1.4 billion tickets), although slightly higher revenue (over $10 billion) was due to steeper ticket prices for 3D. Many factors were proposed as causes:

  • noisy or inconsiderate theatre patrons
  • poor image and sound in multiplexes
  • more viewing options (VOD, streaming, etc.)
  • the recessionary economy
  • a less than stellar summer
  • the use of social media to instantly broadcast word-of-mouth film reactions
  • something else?

Of the ten 2010 Best Picture Oscar nominees, the two audience favorites were Toy Story 3 (2010) - the winner of Best Animated Feature Film, and Inception (2010), which was missing a key Best Director nomination. The main front-runners, The Social Network (2010), the western remake True Grit (2010), and the ultimate Best Picture winner The King's Speech (2010) were not major blockbusters like the previous year's Avatar (2009), Up (2009), and The Blind Side (2009).

Fantasy Films Mostly Nixed in Favor of Real-Life Non-Fiction Stories:

Jerry Bruckheimer failed twice as producer, with the adapted video game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) and the action fantasy comedy The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010). Other fantasy flops included M. Night Shyamalan's awful Nickelodeon cartoon rip-off The Last Airbender in 3D (2010) and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010). Mainstream audiences neglected the multi-genre messy flop that was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), a video-game-and-comic-book-inspired rock 'n' roll romantic action comedy, and also ignored Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels (2010).

One flippant over-the-top film that did appeal to geeks and fanboys was the unapologetically defiant, R-rated comic-book super-hero adaptation Kick-Ass (2010) - its title referring to a teenaged crime-fighting super-hero (with another vigilante father-daughter duo known as Big Daddy and foul-mouthed, sexually-aggressive and murderous 11 year-old Hit-Girl).

Filmgoers (and Academy members) preferred a heavy dose of non-fiction stories that reflected life's struggles and challenges, character conflicts, or stories about real-life disabilities where one could care about a character. Examples included:

  • the ultimate winner, The King's Speech (2010) about a debilitated monarch with a stammering problem who must lead his people through the war
  • the generation-defining and relevant The Social Network (2010) about finding one's identity and the social media lifestyle
  • the arthouse thriller about the dark side of competing ballerinas in Black Swan (2010), with a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman
  • the almost unfilmable 127 Hours (2010) about a terrible climbing accident
  • an eccentric sleeper hit about an atypical two-mom family in The Kids Are All Right (2010)
  • a come-from-behind boxing story in The Fighter (2010)
  • the very realistic and raw Winter's Bone (2010) with a fearless Ozark teenager
  • the disintegration of a dysfunctional marriage in Blue Valentine (2010)

Poor Response to High-Profile Sequels:

If it wasn't the critics, then it was poor audience response to sequel films such as the superfluous comedy Sex and the City 2 (2010) with its extravagant stars not in the Big Apple but in the Middle East, or the third episode of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) that was received only lukewarmly as another fantasy film with nothing special in it. Even though Iron Man 2 (2010) made over $300 million domestically, few liked it and it was the sole comic book film of the year to receive an Oscar nomination (Best Visual Effects) - proving there was an overall decline (and exhaustion) with superhero action films.

The top-grossing talking animal film of 2010 was Yogi Bear (2010) in a sub-genre (including Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore in 3-D (2010) and Marmaduke (2010)) that was already overworn and tired. The remake Tron: Legacy (2010) (with 3D) wasn't great in the eyes of the Academy voters - it missed out on a Best Visual Effects nomination, and Oliver Stone's topical sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) was unimpressive. The most obvious exceptions were both based on books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010), and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010).

A Decline in the Cult of Major Film Celebrities and Stars:

The best film openings were for a well-directed solid story, rather than for a big-name major Hollywood star or celebrity. The fast-action comedy Knight and Day (2010) counted on Tom Cruise's bankability (with another aging headliner Cameron Diaz), but it ended up having Cruise's lowest-attended opening weekend since Far and Away (1992). The poorly-received pretentious summer film The A-Team (2010), capitalizing only on its brand name, was a real low for a repeat of a major action TV series. The star power of the romantic thriller The Tourist (2010), touting the pairing of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, fell flat, as did Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in Ridley Scott's Gladiator-like Robin Hood (2010), Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler mismatched in The Bounty Hunter (2010), or George Clooney in the slow-moving The American (2010). Over-privileged Julia Roberts in the heavily-merchandized Eat Pray Love (2010) exhibited the narcissistic star's shallow soul-searching. Joaquin Phoenix's appearance in the experimental mockumentary I'm Still Here (2010) made fun of 'celebrity' itself.

The Hype of 3-D:

The phenomenon of 3-D didn't entirely live up to its promise, repeating its 1950s status as a short-lived fad. The prediction that 3-D films following the record-breaking Avatar 3-D (2009) would be the wave of the future fizzled in early 2010. It proved to be an unnecessary, gimmicky enhancement of the special effects, in most cases, and had nothing to do with the plot, character development, or acting quality. Backlash came from users who complained about eye strain, the silly glasses, dark images, shoddy transfers, etc.

The best example of failed 3-D was for the incoherent flop Clash of the Titans (2010), whose conversion from 2D to 3-D in post-production backfired. 3-D was also misused in The Nutcracker in 3D (2010), The Last Airbender (2010), and Saw 3D (2010). The costly and lengthy conversion to 3-D of the seventh Harry Potter film was fortuitously scrapped. Maybe 3-D was most appropriate when applied to a guilty-pleasure sexploitation film Piranha 3D (2010), the fourth installment of a zombie horror film (based on a computer game) Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (2010), or the immature stunt-filled Jackass 3D (2010).

The Strength of Feature-Length Documentaries:

Movie audiences had a more positive attitude toward screen entertainment of all kinds, thanks to growing familiarity with reality TV and YouTube. There were a number of film distributors who took chances on self-produced, low-budget projects independent of the studios (and financed through a phenomenon known as "crowdfunding"), during a time when the number of studio films declined. Documentaries could be made cheaply, with widely-available and affordable, low-cost digital film equipment. Many docs of feature-length made a strong showing as unexpected hits during the summer months of 2010.

Some felt there was a glut of documentaries critical of various social issues, such as the two environmentally-themed documentaries which were Oscar nominees in the year of the Gulf oil spill: Waste Land (2010) and GasLand (2010). They were joined by National Geographic's Afghanistan war-themed Restrepo (2010), Inside Job's (2010) accounting of the 2008 global financial meltdown, and the mysterious UK graffiti artist Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010).

Others that showed promise included the highest-grossing documentary of the year - Disney's ecological nature drama Oceans (2010); also Babies (2010), Guggenheim's un-nominated polemic on US education woes in Waiting For Superman (2010), the intriguing and plot-twisting Catfish (2010) revealing a surprising Facebook family relationship, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010), Countdown to Zero (2010) (the follow-up film about the nuclear arms race from the makers of An Inconvenient Truth), and The Tillman Story (2010) about a NFL star turned soldier.

The New Revolutionary Business Model for Hollywood:

According to the LA Times in late September 2011, Hollywood's business model was poised to make a revolutionary shift. Due to a rapid 40% decline in home entertainment revenue (from the once-profitable sale of DVDs, the previous revenue model), the newest switch would be to on-demand services and the acceleration of the delivery of movies over the Internet. Many options would be developed to accommodate consumers' Internet-connected digital devices (smartphones, tablets, and TVs), in order to facilitate digital movie consumption (and collection) via downloads. The article ("The Revolution Will Be Downloaded") predicted: "It may be the biggest shift in Hollywood's business model since the explosion of the DVD in the late 1990s." However, the complexity of downloading a film on one device for viewing it on another device (in the bedroom, minivan, or portable DVD player) wasn't yet clearly delineated.

Various options were being considered to increase home entertainment media sales:

  • Storing and Watching Movies in the "Cloud" - Consumers would be able to watch a purchased film on any Internet-connected digital device, with just a login and password to access their locker in the 'virtual' cloud.
  • Digitizing DVD Collections - Services would be available to copy (or convert) one's movies from DVD to a 'digital locker' in the cloud. Tech-savvy computer users could convert their films themselves and upload them.
  • Different Price Points - Premium video on demand would be the most expensive in the first few weeks of a film's release. Then a few weeks later, a less expensive digital copy could be purchased. The cheapest option would be to wait for a rented digital copy or DVD, available only after a longer waiting period.
  • Social Networking - A list of recommended or preferred films will be personally generated for each user and available for purchase from choices made in social networks (Facebook's 'like', or Amazon's/Netflix's recommendations). People could use social networks to watch films with friends, share clips, play social games (movie-related), and get recommendations based on the 'likes' of people on their friends lists.
  • Multiple Screens - More than one digital screen could be synched up for a single film, to present additional angles, directorial commentary, text, etc.
  • The Creation of Movie-Specific Apps - Smartphones and tablets will be more than just movie screens. They could be used as ancillary 'second screens' with additional content for the film being watched on another device.

Distribution Rights Partner Up Hollywood Studios with Subscription Internet Video:

Hollywood studios were now selling distribution rights for their films and TV programs to Internet companies, as opposed to traditional TV channels, in a move to make more revenue. Major Hollywood studio DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc, a large supplier of media content (films and TV specials), ended its long-running pay-TV deal with cable station HBO in 2011. It signed a new deal to pump its content through Netflix. This was the first time a major Hollywood supplier chose Web streaming over pay television. Netflix planned to begin exclusively streaming DreamWorks films starting with movies released in 2013 and running through 2016. At the same time, Amazon was competing by bulking up its streaming video service (dubbed Amazon Prime) with movies and TV shows from 20th Century Fox (including 2,000 older films and TV shows).

Film History of the 2010s
Part 1

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