1. “The Birdcage.” Mark Harris on how Hollywood’s toxic (and worsening) addiction to franchises changed movies forever in 2014.
“Today we have a different model: The modern studio chief loves business, success, replication, and reliability, and nobody expects him to offer even the most cursory nod to anything that smacks of ideals that relate to content; that’s not what he’s there for. [Kevin] Tsujihara has an MBA from Stanford. He started out managing Time Warner’s interest in Six Flags theme parks, then moved to home entertainment, and early last year took over the whole business. He has never produced a movie; in fact, he is the first studio head to rise in the ranks purely through brand extension and ancillary divisions, and brand extension is what he’s all about. Besides the DC announcement, his big accomplishments have been to nail down those three additional Rowling movies to add to the studio’s portfolio of eight, and to turn one Lego movie into four—a ninja Lego movie, a Batman Lego movie, and (for purists, I suppose) The Lego Movie 2. This is what successful purveyors of goods do; they make more of what sells, they cull what doesn’t from the lineup, and they seek to create products in which quality-of-execution variability is never going to be too much of a wild card. MGM’s old, gloriously lofty motto was ’Ars Gratia Artis’; today, the only thing written in invisible ink on every studio gate is ’More of What Works,’ a credo that would be right at home at the entrance to any manufacturing plant.”