When you hear someone say, “You could never do that today,” it’s usually related to humor. You could never do it like that Flaming Saddles Today people argue because it is too racist impetuous. or tropical thunder couldn’t possibly get the green light because of the blackface panic, even if blackface is used to criticize Hollywood’s history of wiping out African-American actors.
I’m generally open to such claims, although there’s also something to be said about changes in taste etc. (I’d also be very curious to know how Flaming Saddles plays with a 14-year-old kid, for reasons unrelated to how “problematic” it is, but to do with pacing, references, etc.) But if I think “this film could be made impossible today”, then I do I usually think about it from a business perspective.
So if I say, “There’s no way I can do that Bull Durham today”, it’s not the tone or the tenor of the humor. I don’t think it would be banned because of the voodoo jokes or anything. No, the problem is more basic: you couldn’t make it because you couldn’t sell it.
Bull Durham is a great movie, arguably the best baseball movie of all time. I loved talking to you Director Ron Shelton talks about it this week on BGTH; that was my real pleasure. (Buy his book!) But if you suggested this film today, he would have a number of strikes against it before you even met with an executive.
First of all, it’s a baseball movie, and baseball movies don’t travel abroad. There are only a handful of countries interested in baseball, and with the exception of Korea and Japan, none of them are big box office hits. If you can’t sell a film abroad, you can’t sell it in the States. This was one of the reasons the studios were reluctant to give the green light Bull Durham back in the 1980s, but luckily for us, the foreign market was less important to the studio’s bottom line at that point.
Second, it is an adult comedy based on a relatively specific cultural phenomenon, and adult comedy based on a relatively specific cultural phenomenon does not sell abroad. It’s not just minor league baseball, it’s Walt Whitman and pool halls and the dying cities of America.
Third, it doesn’t have a star that can sell internationally and, you guessed it, if you don’t have a star that can sell internationally, you can’t really sell the film abroad. Costner would go on to be a big star, but when the film was bought it didn’t have that kind of appeal.
Again, none of this is a hit with the film. It’s just a howl at the state of the world. If you wanted to do Bull Durham today you would have to present it as a TV show; it would be stretched beyond recognition, thin as too little toffee pulled too far a distance. And indeed there seems to be one Bull Durham TV show in the works, but without Mr. Shelton’s approval, as he reveals in the final pages of his book. A shame. But certainly not surprising.
I checked this out a few weeks ago, but since it’s been widely shared this weekend I thought I’d repeat it: Marcel wears the shell with shoes on is an adorable movie this will resonate with older children and parents alike. I think it might turn young people’s heads, but it’s actually very delightful and at times very poignant.
The gray manmeanwhile, it’s hitting a few hundred theaters this week before hitting Netflix next week. I didn’t hate it, although I didn’t love it either. I’ll say this: it’s way better than Red notice!
On this week Bonus episode of Across the Movie Aislewe talked about aging movie stars associated with it interesting wrestling piece conclusively demonstrates that actors grow older. What is the problem?
Many people say Mav dies at the beginning of the new one top gun! (Although I prefer my own “Purgatory” Theory to the “death dream” theory.)
Look, this isn’t rocket science: if streaming companies want to maximize conversation about their biggest investments (i.e. TV shows), You need to move to a weekly release strategy rather than a binging model.
Assigned Viewing: “John Wick” (Peacock)
In the next episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, I chat with Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman about their new oral history of the John Wick franchise. You shouldn’t have killed his dog. The book will be released on July 19 (Pre-order now!) and the film will be streamed on Peacock.
One thing that stood out about the replay is how intentional the initial pacing is: you go 30 minutes with little more than whispers about how terrifying Wick (Keanu Reeves) is before the battle royale kicks off at Wick’s house, and they don’t. don’t really slow down until the whole thing stops 70 minutes later. Good movie!
And if you like the film, you should definitely pick up the book: Gross and Altman have done tons of interviews (there is almost a whole book about the history of Gun-Fu at the beginning), but the most revealing thing about the film, from my POV, are the ones with screenwriter Derek Kolstad and producer Basil Iwanyk. Just tons of interesting nuggets about the making of the film and the film’s philosophy.