And this is why he's not The Movie Guy
This won't be the most thought out thing I've posted but it's been a good while since I've posted an honest to god rant on here.
Bill Simmons's article on The Movie Star problem is one of the most frustrating pieces I've read in some time and it's also a lot of what annoys me about the Sports Guy - he writes these gran pronouncements in which he acts like he's in the know but they are only for casual fans because anyone who actually cares or is involved in the business sees that his points are fallacious, misrepresentations, or just not based in reality. Also, somewhere in the article, Sports Guy usually outs himself as not really knowing what he's talking about which he does in flying colors in this one.
After spending two pages going on about how Ryan Reynolds isn't a movie star and he hates how Hollywood is shoving him down our throats, Simmons lists who he considers a movie star and on that list is Ben Affleck, an actor who ten years ago WAS Ryan Reynolds (even down to attaining the unattainably hot girl; Affleck got J-Lo, Reynolds got Scarlett). One could argue that Reynolds actually deliver some quality movies whereas Affleck's filmography is filled with some absolute crapfests. To ramble on so much about Reynolds and then mention Affleck as a star is perhaps the greatest example of shitting all over your own argument I've seen in quite some time.
As for the idea of what a movie star is, Terry Rossie (writer of Pirates of the Caribbean) set me straight on that. A few years ago, I agreed with a lot of what Simmons had to say about stardom. My go to line was a Karl Krauss quote, ""How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read." That was how I saw Hollywood; they try to sell their movie by hyping up an unestablished actor as a Movie Star and then turn around and believe the press and sign the guy to big money roles. I also pointed out to the box office failures of people like Angelina Jolie who was considered a star but was churning out duds.
What Rossie pointed out to me (and I hope I'm getting this right) was that what is sold to the press and public as a movie star and what studio execs and producers consider to be a movie star are two very different things. In the eyes of studio execs, the key indicators of a movie star are actors who can sell a film overseas, lead to easier distribution, and cheaper marketing. Today, an increasing factor is worldwide box office. Some older stars might not seem like Stars anymore but they still deliver the bucks overseas. The best example of that is Alexander, a bomb in the US that Colin Ferrell and Angelina Jolie helped make a money earner overseas. Similarly, POTC: On Stranger Tides didn't do gangbusters here but Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz's appeal overseas now has it as the 8th All-Time highest grossing movie worldwide.
What Ryan Reynolds is is a guy who studios think MIGHT be a movie star. If his films don't hit or he doesn't gain any traction overseas, he'll be cast aside like the other guys who tried to be A-list and failed (Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, and SG's boy Affleck).
This isn't to say that there aren't problem in Hollywood. Clearly the recent slate of studio movies is evidence to that. But Simmons's lack of understanding of the business and writing style just lead casual movie fans down the wrong path. It focuses on the stars rather than development. Actors over scripts. Ironically, Simmons makes a lot of the same mistakes that execs make when putting a film together.
He also commits one of the most ignorant sins that "film fans" often pull when he wrote,
"Why not worry about finding quality scripts and making quality movies instead? That would require real work and real ingenuity."No, the reason is because execs are under pressure to make money and good films often don't reach the mass audience, art house films rarely make money overseas, and they almost never make hundreds upon hundreds of dollars, launch merchandising sales, and can be spun into franchises that bring in even more money. Films like Shawshank Redemption are great but that film also probably got people fired because it didn't make any money. And what's most frustrating is that the this sentiment is coming from a man who quotes every terrible 80's action movie ever made but refused to watch The Wire while it was on air.
In trying to write about the problem with Hollywood, what Simmons really accomplished was showing the problems with his own writing.