“The end of creativity and originality in filmmaking is upon us.” From this statement, you probably feel like I’m just another self-proclaimed film expert, yelling at the unwatched masses from his ivory tower of ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ – however, I’m definitely not that. Truth be told I’ve never watched Citizen Kane, and it took me two sittings to get through Pulp Fiction.
I enjoy all kinds of movies – though the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise holds a special place in my heart, and I even cried when Paul Walker died. While I can happily enjoy a relatively mindless action-adventure romp, I despise lazy filmmaking, and, more specifically, lazy screenwriting.
This is why I declare that creativity and originality have been banished from the offices and studios of Hollywood. I have come to this conclusion from my observations of the word “bad”. It is a simple adjective, and a good word to describe the majority of films produced by the Hollywood machine. There is an issue, however, beyond the majority of these films being “bad”. The end of creativity is embodied by the choice of screenwriters and filmmakers to put the word “bad” in front of an arbitrary noun, and using the ‘bad + noun’ formula as the premise for an entire movie. Since 2010, films titled ‘bad neighbors’, ‘bad mums’, ‘bad teacher’, ‘bad grandpa’ and ‘bad words’ have blessed our screens.
While filmmakers might think that they are being unique and original by subverting stereotypes and making these traditional characters “edgy”, they’re not. This proliferation of the ‘adjective + noun’ formula is eroding the foundations of good filmmaking and screenwriting practices. I came away fearing for my movie-watching life after seeing ‘Dirty Grandpa’, another unoriginal premise, grounded solely in the placement of “dirty” in front of a noun.
So what really started this ‘bad trend’ for film titles? The original subversion of stereotypes came in the form of 1992’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’, in which the screenwriter successfully distorted the role of a police officer. This film was unique and offered a new take on a traditional role, relying on solid performances and an original script, instead of the novelty of the premise alone. The seed of this current plague of ‘bad’ movies, however, is 2003’s ‘Bad Santa’ – a quality film in which the performance of a drunken Billy Bob Thornton, coupled with a smart screenplay, lifted the film beyond the novelty value provided by its premise. If only screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa understood the devastating repercussions their choices would have.
For all the complaining I’ve managed to fit into this piece, however, there is hope.
2014’s ‘Bad Words’ managed to soar above the heap of the ‘bad films’, utilising Jason Bateman’s proven comedic acumen and a deliciously vulgar script.
What needs to be taken away from this is an understanding that we need to return original screenwriting to Hollywood, and throughout the rest of the world. Films like the ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Hunt for the Wilder people’ are too quickly becoming exceptions to the screenwriting norm. There is definitely a place for simple and enjoyable movies, but screenwriters cannot simply rely on an ‘adjective + noun’ as their entire premise. If we continue down this ‘bad’ path we will soon see the end of all creativity and originality in filmmaking.