Hollywood has put on its sandwich board for doomsday. First Steven Soderbergh offered
an apocalyptic valediction to his moviemaking career, taking a scalpel to a failing studio system in a state of the (dis)union address; then Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted a time in which going to the cinema will set you back $100 before you’ve even made it to the popcorn counter. The future they’ve envisioned, whether televised, streamed, pirated or dumped directly into your brain Total Recall-style, is a commoditised, franchised, China-friendly blockbusterthon in which indie talent turns to HBO and fewer, bigger releases come with juggernaut marketing campaigns
and 3D fitted as standard.
If you reach for ex-Paramount producer Lynda Obst’s account for better news, you’ll be disappointed. Even Forrest Gump would find it hard to smile — or, for that matter,
get green-lit — in Obst’s brave new world of preawareness, four-quadrant marketing and Xanax-popping execs figuring out how to crack Russia.
Obst’s account divides Hollywood into the eras of the ‘Old Abnormal’ and the ‘New Abnormal’, presumably allowing for the fact that the town that spawned Howard Hughes, Don Simpson and I’m With Busey just skipped the ‘normal’ phase. Her time at Paramount ideally places her to bear witness to a traditional studio adjusting to the post-DVD, globalised movie market. The solution? Go big, go sequels and go foreign. “We’re in a business,” one wary suit tells her, “and if we can make $640 billion rides, why would we want to make $240 billion rides?”
As you’d expect from a top filmmaker and philosophy grad, Obst’s account has smarts to burn, but while no-one gets an entirely free ride, her friendship with many of the key players makes it feel like punches are pulled. Even the dramatis personae of that mini-armageddon, the 2007 Writers’ Strike, are too vaguely drawn to engage. And while the fact that Kate Hudson isn’t much good at returning calls is interesting, it’s hardly Dennis Hopper chasing Peter Fonda around with a kitchen knife. Still, while it lacks the elegance of Adventures In The Screen Trade or gossipy fizz of You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again, Obst’s book is a timely inside track on the involuntary revolution gripping Hollywood. Now, if she’s really serious about her treatise, she’ll write a sequel…
Reviewed by Phil De Semlyen