Saturday, January 12, 2013

Living in the Past

Terrific article in the NYT Magazine on the continued travails of America's Favorite Prolonged Trainwreck. Where to start? A washed-up child star, used up and turned out by her grasping, scumbag parents, once-promising career now completely ruined, destined to be an escort for minor Saudi princes (assuming she lives long enough). A crowdsourced movie made in borrowed locations by a porn star and a once-shining screenwriter, whose own wife warned him about the dubious merits of this project.

(For much more insight on Schrader and other classic '70s Hollywood characters, I highly recommend Peter Biskind's excellent Easy Riders Raging Bulls. Schrader, among several other high-strung artistes, seemed at times too driven by their inner demons, when they maybe should have trusted at least one other human enough to solicit and accept their opinion.)

It's worth noting that, in an extended piece littered with a variety of memorable people, that the most redeeming one out of all of them appears to be James Deen, the erstwhile porn star. The most consistent message I could glean from this narrative is that, while there may have been a point in time in Hollywood where your work ethic could afford to be inversely proportional to your star value (i.e., if Lohan was still marketable, no one would give a shit if she showed up late, drunk, or not at all), those days are long gone.

Even the days of "they can make you or break you" are done. What percentage of major-release movies per year now are staked on rehashed public-domain stories, CGI-green screen sets and action, half-assed script-doctoring, cardboard characters, indifferent directing? Actors are a commodity now; the era of true superstardom is over.

You know the PLR craze in internets marketing, where you take something that's been done a million times, reword it slightly, slap a new cover on it, and then sucker people into paying fresh money for it? That's what Hollywood does now, but with old public domain stuff. Don't believe me, while you're all moony-eyed over Les Miserables? Ask yourself how much Victor Hugo's estate gets from that, or L. Frank Baum's estate gets from the upcoming Oz movie. You can thank the mouse cult for that there bidness model.

Anyhoo, the sad thing about Lohan is not that her career is shot, it's that she doesn't seem to realize it. Even if she somehow got her shit together, there's no upside for any producer, micro or mainstream, to take the risk on her. And since she literally doesn't know how to do anything else, she can't fathom the notion that if you can't even keep from getting fired from a microbudget NC-17 gig that couldn't have gotten a real release in the first place, you have zero value to them. There's simply too many people there with close-enough talent who would crawl through broken glass to show up sober and on time.


Tehanu said...

Yes, it's a sad story. She had a lot of talent -- although that is the commonest attribute in Hollywood, actually -- and it's sad to see her downhill slide. I really wonder if anyone nas really tried to help her, or if she has just ignored everyone who tried to talk sense to her, or what.

Heywood J. said...

I recall some years back (like 2004, when Mean Girls took off and Lohan hosted SNL) that supposedly Tina Fey tried to talk some sense into her. I know that when I was 18-19, I knew everything, and no one could tell me nothin'.

I can just imagine if I had also had tons of money, sex, and drugs, and people were lining up to tell me how talented I was.

Amazing how quickly it goes. Like David Lee Roth used to say, "Here today, gone later today."