Friday, November 4, 2011

Universal head Ron Meyer cops to making "shitty movies."

I'm an audio commentary junkie. For a long time there, if I rented a movie with an audio commentary, I'd have to listen to it. Sure, this means that you're bound to run across a few duds along the way. You'd think the low point was when I found myself listening to the Swimfan commentary, but no one - NO ONE - is a worse commentator than Mel Brooks.  His commentary on Spaceballs might as well be one of those tracks that visually impaired people listen to because he spends the entire 90 minutes describing EXACTLY what is on the screen at that point.

That's not why I listen to commentaries. The best ones are with participants who are willing to be candid and blunt about the process. Interestingly, I feel like we saw more of these back in the early days of the DVD. This probably has something to do with the fact that in the early days of commentaries, the people who'd be cajoled into doing the audio track were people who really felt they had something to say. This is explains why most commentaries I listend to were part-old war stories and part-explanation/apologies for where the film went wrong.

And this is why I now demand that Universal puts out a special edition Blu-Ray of The Wolfman with an audio commentary featuring Ron Meyer, head of Universal Studios and director Joe Johnston. It's guaranteed to be entertaining considering some statements that Meyer made at the Savannah Film Festival:

“We make a lot of shitty movies. Every one of them breaks my heart.

“We set out to make good ones. One of the worst movies we ever made was Wolfman [produced, coincidentally, by local Savannah resident Stratton Leopold.] Wolfman and Babe 2 are two of the shittiest movies we put out, but by the same token we made movies we believe in. We did United 93, which is one of the movies I’m most proud of. It wasn’t a big moneymaker, but it’s a film I believe every American should see and it showed you what people can do in the worst of times and how great the human spirit is and all that, so there are moments that can make up for all the junk that you make.”

He doesn't stop there...

“[The Wolfman is] one of those movies, the moment I saw it I thought, ‘What have we all done here?’ That movie was crappy... We all went wrong. It was one of those things… like I said, we make a lot of bad movies. That’s one we should have smelled out a long time ago. It was wrong. The script never got right… [The cast] was awful. The director was wrong. Benicio [del Toro] stunk. It all stunk.”

This might make you wonder, "what does director Joe Johnston have to say for himself?" I'm glad you asked:

"I had three weeks of prep on WOLFMAN, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time to try to bring together the fractured and scattered pieces of the production. I had taken the job mostly because I had a cash flow problem, the only time in my career I’ve ever let finances enter into the decision process. Money is always the wrong reason for doing something that requires passionate devotion. The production was a leaky, rudderless ship in a perfect storm suffering from bad decisions, infighting, reluctance of the powers-that-be to take responsibility, and too many under-qualified cooks in the kitchen."

I want to get these two guys in a room, force them to watch the film, and let them fight it out. Do you hear me, Universal? I'd buy this on Blu-Ray... And I bet a lot of other people would too.

And don't stop there. The entire Universal catalog should be re-released in special "Ron Meyer 'Shitty movie' Editions." Order now and hear Ron's straight talk on Cowboys & Aliens:

Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough... All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it.”

...Land of the Lost...

Land of the Lost was just crap... I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong. Scott Pilgrim, I think, was actually kind of a good movie. [Addressing a small section of the audience, cheering.] But none of you guys went! And you didn’t tell your friends to go! But, you know, it happens.”

Are we sure this guy doesn't post on AICN under an alias?

Cowboys & Aliens didn’t deserve better. Land of the Lost didn’t deserve better. Scott Pilgrim did deserve better, but it just didn’t capture enough of the imaginations of people, and it was one of those things where it didn’t cost a lot so it wasn’t a big loss. Cowboys & Aliens was a big loss, and Land of the Lost was a huge loss. We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we’re all guilty of it. I have to take first responsibility because I’m part of it, but we all did a mediocre job and we paid the price for it. It happens. They’re talented people. Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.”

Universal: It Happens.


  1. “[A critical hit is] great when it happens. But we did A Beautiful Mind, and I don’t know that we’d do A Beautiful Mind again. That’s the sad part. It’s great to win awards and make films that you’re proud of and make money, but your first obligation is to make money and then worry about being proud of what you do.”
    - Ron Meyer, President/COO of Universal Studios

    So, according to Ron, in (at least) mainstream filmmaking one cannot actually afford to make decent movies because money is all that really matters? Quality can't even be tied with money on what is the bottom line?

    I might as well give up now if that's indeed the case and no other way of filmmaking is possible to succeed... : - \.

  2. I wish he would say this about the movies that are coming out to save me some trouble at the box office...

  3. I didn't find Wolfman that bad and DeToro did a fine job in my opinion. An agressive re-cut and cutting out like Carpenter did with his "The Fog" might make it a real top notch movie