Kenneth Turan's premise, that fewer films would be better films, is unworthy of his huge, egghead brain ("A Modest Proposal," July 13).
Sturgeon's Law states that "90% of everything is crap." Say 1,000 films are now made in a year. One hundred of those films might be worth seeing, and 10 of those films might actually be good.
Now say Turan gets to be Tinpot Emperor of Hollywood, and 500 films are made every year. That means 50 will be decent, and five will be good. That's an improvement?
Sturgeon's Law may not be a real scientific law, but it's close enough for jazz. I think Turan doesn't really want fewer movies, just better movies. He simply thinks that one will always lead to the other--sort of like thinking that less food will always lead to better health. Tell that to the starving children in Africa.
Because all films demand a return on their initial investment (usually much greater with Hollywood films than with independents), the drive to be accepted by the largest audience--the root of mediocrity--is inherent in the medium. The solution is not, as Turan suggests, to make less films and to make these even less personal (God forbid more heartless movies!), but to make more on smaller budgets.
Despite Turan's wish to fulfill Jean-Luc Godard's prediction that Hollywood will eventually make only one giant film per year (at a cost of a billion dollars), the only true solution to American cinematic mediocrity is through the diversification of films, not the totalitarian restriction of them.
Playa del Rey
Turan's proposal that the studios make fewer movies is an excellent one, but I would modify it in the following ways:
1--Distribute movies more evenly. There is nothing more frustrating than finding out that a charming, offbeat, low-budget movie is playing at two or three theaters (each a 20-mile drive from my home) but the local ten-plex theater is only showing four different movies.
2--Conduct audience research much earlier in the creative process. Spending $40 million or $50 million on a movie and then seeing how people will react to it is ridiculous. The silly, pretentious plots that characterize many of the films released these days would disappear if the paying public were asked ahead of time if they had any interest in the story line. Creative types might object, but remember folks, it's a business. If you want to make art, use your own money.
3--How about studios having a national competition in which the movie-viewing public is invited to submit a story idea? Surely in thousands of ideas submitted from the heartland, a few worthy ideas would be found.
WILLIAM E. JONES
Obviously, Turan isn't serious, since he wants to be Swiftian. Yet he seems sincerely distraught at the glut of films that he and his crew of reviewers must face week-in and week-out. But basically it is the quality of films he is perturbed about. There isn't any reason why a variety of original, interesting films can't be made, and in numbers; there is only the will of the producers to decide what gets made.
I don't see how it follows that restricting the number of films released, or even the number of screens per square mile of urban space, can temper the rampant and well-funded stupidity of Hollywood. PHILIP TONE
I agree that independent filmmakers are every bit as guilty as the studios of churning out both the forgettable and the regrettable. How do we allow the Red Sea of poorly lit, narcissistic, dull, juvenile urban angst pictures to part (see Turan on Sundance) and allow great independently produced films to emerge?
Turan argues for tighter financial constraints--though short of canceling the credit cards of every young filmmaker's family, it's hard to imagine making indie financing any harder. Would this allow small films to evolve as we might hope? Probably not. When money is tighter, the evolutionary pressure simply selects those filmmakers with more ability to raise money, rather than those with a true talent for cinematic storytelling.
Despite being overwhelmed by cinematic crap, people are still going to the movies--the audience still has some faith in film. If filmmakers, critics, distributors and exhibitors could show similar faith in themselves, and in the heart and intellect of their audiences, the field could truly shine.
Ouch! Pardon us, Mr. Turan, but while we were feeding you, you appear to have mistaken our hands for the slice of cake.
SCOTT DAVIS JONES
Scott Davis Jones Entertainment