By Gabe Toro | The Playlist January 7, 2014 at 1:33PM
2013 is now behind us, which means we can take stock on what the biggest news stories of the year were, and how they'll affect the industry in 2014 and beyond. There were no shortage of hits and bombs, but ultimately, what we'll take away from it were the developing trends, the evolving methods of storytelling, and the behind-the-scenes insanity that made it all happen. A simple click through will take you back to the times when "The Lone Ranger" seemed like a can't-miss proposition, when Steven Spielberg seemed like a complete optimist about the industry, and when studios funded their own movies for once. Bright days, those were.
Here are the ten biggest movie news stories of the past year.
The Loneliness Of "The
Everyone wants to paint themselves as an ace box office prognosticator, and rarely does anyone get everything right. But early on, anybody who knew anything about the industry could tell you that "The Lone Ranger" was easily going to be the year's biggest flop. 2012 was filled with stories about budget cuts and revisions to the material, but by the time 2013 rolled along, we were ready to see the thing. But an early Super Bowl spot bored, and the trailer played for months in theaters to absolute silence.
By the time the movie
arrived, it carried a target on its back from legions of critics, some of whom
had been sharpening their knives all year, others who merely saw this big
budget jalopy as the unwieldy marriage of western action and Trail Of
Tears-inspired mournfulness. The film didn't even break $100 million domestic,
a near-guarantee for any wide release opening around Independence Day, causing
the actors to go on the warpath against critics, those mighty arbiters of taste
that doom blockbusters to obscurity (though Quentin Tarantino loved it). It got so bad that star Johnny Depp, still
making private-island money from Disney for the "Pirates Of The
Caribbean" films, was contemplating retirement. Ultimately, Disney claimed a $190 million write-off, and the relationship between "Lone Ranger" producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the studio led to the postponement of the 2015 release of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."
We'll Fund It For You
Warner Bros. went ahead and double-dog dared "Veronica Mars" fans to show their fandom for the cult show by ponying up the cash, specifically $2 million, through crowd-funding site Kickstarter, for a movie spinoff. It almost seemed like a bluff, but there they were, scads and scads of fans lining up not to give to charity, but to bring themselves one more unnecessary addition to a show that already lasted three years. $5.7 million later, and "Veronica Mars" was a go picture. Kickstarter used to be reserved for amateurs and newcomers, and now the very successful were crashing the party.
Zach Braff was next, seeking
$2 million, crowdsourcing support for his latest, the preciously-titled "Wish I Was
Here," landing at his goal in less than a week. Earning the most scrutiny,
however, was Spike Lee. Months before his $30 million remake of
"Oldboy" was hitting theaters, he requested a cool $1.25 million to complete
funding on his very low budget "Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus," and after
more than a few weeks, some generous contributors, and several sharp critiques,
he too hit his mark.
Controversy Is The Warmest
One of the year's most divisive films was unquestionably "Blue Is The Warmest Color," which Cannes jury head Steven Spielberg surprisingly gifted with the Palme d'Or. This three hour epic about the relationship between a young lesbian and her older, urbane lover immediately generated controversy over its explicit sex scenes, which earned an NC-17 rating and angry complaints from critics that it was merely servicing the male gaze (including, surprisingly, Julie Maroh, the writer of the graphic novel that inspired the film). A complex issue, that, once further complicated by the reveal of a very challenging shoot that bore the weight of several professional tensions.
Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux repeatedly cited the abusive tactics of director Abdellatif Kechiche, who in turn reacted in anger through the press about
the finished product and its content. The two claimed they would never work with him again, and he threatened to take them to court. Seydoux claimed she felt "like a prostitute," and Kechiche claimed they didn't go far enough with the sex scenes. He hinted at a sequel, before suggesting the film should never be released, while the crew fired back about the hostile conditions. "Blue is The Warmest Color"
ultimately became one of the year's best films, though not before further rocky
roads: it was eventually banned in the state of lesbian-allergic Idaho, while
in New York the IFC Center boldly opted to not enforce the MPAA rating,
allowing younger audiences to freely see the film. What this means for Lars Von
Trier's "Nymphomaniac" is a mystery: that sexually-confrontational
film made headlines all throughout 2013 with its staggering plans for a four
hour-plus semi-pornographic epic that has already vexed critics in Europe.