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Film | by Shane “Intellectual” Hnetka

The Academy Awards are just around the corner — Oscar night is Sunday, March 4. I haven’t watched them in more than 10 years but I still kind of pay attention. One of the more interesting nominees this year is Logan, for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s not the first comic book movie to be nominated for this award — Ghost World, American Splendor and A History of Violence all got the nod — but Logan is the first superhero comic movie to get it. It’s nice to see the genre get some respect.

“Too Intellectual”

Writer/Director Alex Garland’s name is on some of the last few years’ more interesting films. He wrote 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd, and his first solo-directed movie, Ex Machina, was brilliant.

Garland’s latest is the science fiction film Annihilation. I’ve seen it and it’s excellent. That’s why I was surprised to learn Paramount sold Annihilation’s international rights to Netflix before it was even released because the studio felt, to quote producer David Ellison, that it’s “too intellectual and too confusing.”

“Too intellectual”?

Ellison wanted Garland to make major changes to one character, and to the ending. Garland and producer Scott Rudin disagreed — and since Rudin had final say over any cuts, Garland got his way.

But is it “too intellectual” for audiences?

Garland isn’t worried.

“I don’t really give a shit,” the director told the Toronto Star. “I don’t believe in it as a bit of phrasing, nor do I actually think the film is very intellectual. I think it’s quite intuitive. There’s a requirement to have an open mind, I think, but that in itself is not intellectual.”

I’m with Garland. I don’t understand what “too intellectual” even means here. Then again, I love movies. I love popcorn movies, b-movies, classic movies, horror movies, sci-fi movies, superhero movies — pretty much anything as long as there’s no animated chipmunks.

And yes, I very much enjoy intellectual movies. Why does the world prefer to be stupid?

Nobody Is Watching

The box office totals for seven Best Picture nominees are at a six-year low. With the exceptions of Dunkirk ($188,045,546) and Get Out ($176,040,665), the rest haven’t broken $100 million — The Post ($77,963,001), The Shape of Water ($54,480,844), Darkest Hour ($53,719,842), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ($49,189,579), Lady Bird ($46,632,130), Phantom Thread ($18,152,094) and Call Me by Your Name ($15,240,910) all fell short. I know  independent movies don’t make as much as Hollywood blockbusters but it’s still discouraging because it basically means  nobody is going to these movies.

When people don’t go to riskier movies, studios stop taking chances — that’s what’s really happening when quality stuff like Annihilation gets dumped onto Netflix.

Great movies need to take risks. So this weekend, go see something good. You’ll be rewarded.

Shane Hnetka is a made-in-Saskatchewan film and comic book nerd.