What is Hollywood going to do when people get sick of superhero movies? Sure, they'll still have young adult literary adaptations to lean on (I'm ready for a The Three Investigators movie, and an Encyclopedia Brown flick as well.)
As has been noted many times, it's not that Hollywood is running out of ideas. There are dozens of incredible independent films made each year; the problem is, save for a few big-city markets, the public rarely gets a chance to see them (hands up if you've even heard of recent indie darlings Gemini, Eighth Grade, Leave No Trace, Sorry to Bother You, American Animals, BlindSpotting or Won't You Be My Neighbour?).
Partially because they're keen on the global box office numbers that pre-existing fantasies like comic-book stories can deliver, Hollywood is less concerned with films that cost tens of millions to make but can turn an impressive profit and focuses on flicks that cost and (might) make hundreds of millions.
Slow and steady is not in the Hollywood DNA.
And it's about to get worse. The Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a.: the Oscars) recently announced the inclusion of a new category for the 2019 show: Popular Films.
It remains to be seen what films included in this category will be based on, (box office? Budget? Scout's Honour?) but the effect will likely be to draw attention and prestige from the traditional Best Picture nominees, many of which are small films that need the financial boost an Oscar win provides.
To make matters worse, the Oscars are also shortening their broadcast to just three hours and will be simultaneously awarding some of their prizes via the internet. This sucks, because it means the people who toil in the less-known categories like sound design, short film, and editing will likely not even get recognized on the one night of the year their hard work is mentioned.
As the wise women of laineygossip.com pointed out last week, this means artists like Gary Rydstrom, the Oscar-winning sound designer behind the infamous T-Rex roar in Jurassic Park, may now be relegated to an internet sideshow awards ceremony.
Is it fair? No one has ever heard a dinosaur, but thanks to Gary we all feel like we have. Isn't that as important as whichever 21-year-old model Leo DiCaprio brings?
Hollywood's other big problem, since its inception, has been diversity and inclusion. For the longest time, if you weren't a white dude, the American film industry didn't give too much of a shit about you, and the Oscars reflected that. (Not counting foreign box offices, of course; Hollywood loves those from any culture).
Thankfully, a lot has changed in the past couple years and progress continues this week with Crazy Rich Asians, opening Friday at the Whistler Village 8.
Directed by Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians is a romcom based on the popular novel by Kevin Kwan. Constance Wu stars as an Asian-American NYU professor who accompanies her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to a super wealthy/elite wedding involving one of Singapore's richest families.
It's like a reverse Cinderella (the evil stepmom and sisters are on Colin's side) crossed with Meet the Parents. And the cast is entirely Asian, which almost never happens outside of period/martial arts flicks. (Early word is actress/rapper Awkwafina—despite naming herself after bottled water—is already gaining awards season recognition for her supporting role as the shit-talking best friend).
Crazy Rich Asians is the best romcom of the year, but it also digs deeper into the ever-changing generational and cross-cultural acceptance/differences that we don't see enough of in Hollywood films.
Director Chu deftly combines the romance and comedy with sharp scenes illustrating the battle between tradition and modernism, globalism and tribalism. The result is real insight into our contemporary world. And while Chu (and his camera) often fetishizes the opulence and crazy-richness of his subject matter in a way that might water down his critique, the overall takeaway from Crazy Rich Asians is a fun, funny, and thoughtful flick that, if it does well at the box office, will help pave the way for a host of other Asian-focused films that are currently in limbo as Hollywood waits to see if "this Asian thing" has legs.
Check out Crazy Rich Asians. If not to send a message to Hollywood then to witness Ken Leung (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) who gets the best line: encouraging his children to finish all their dinner because, "there are children starving in America, right now."