... media fragmentation has made studios more wary of jumping into purely fictional drama, because they can no longer rely on best-selling novels, original stage shows, or the even the reputation of master filmmakers to supply a mass audience. “It’s quite possible that we’re in a golden age for this type of film, and we’re just not aware of it yet,” said Robert Birchard, editor of the American Film Institute catalog of feature films.
"This type of film" being the non-fiction drama, a la the upcoming Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass, of United 93; starring Tom Hanks). It would be nice if indeed this type of film does turn out to be a good source for modest hit-making beyond the usual awards ceremony chatter.
Last year that crowd of movies consisted of Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty, all of which got a reasonable amount of attention, but which collectively didn't make a fraction of the money of the usual tentpole beasts. But again, just having movies like this at all means that much more diversity in the palette — and if they're all the more encouraged to fund them and make them, and not simply dump the results off to video, the picture might not be so bleak.
Greengrass's United 93 was pretty electrifying, and so I'm curious to see what happens this time around with Captain Phillips. Of course, the Paul Greengrass movie I was most curious to see never did come to be: Watchmen. God only knows what that would have been like; file it on the shelf next to Jodorowsky's Dune, for which we now have an apparently fascinating documentary coming our way.
All this reminded me of some non-fiction subjects I'd like to see treated as a movie:
- The story of Ted Patrick, the man who pioneered cult deprogramming and brought the problem of cult mind control to public attentio in the 1970s.
- The Christy Scheck story, about how a rebellious teenaged girl was admitted to an unregulated for-profit psychiatric center and committed suicide (as dramatized in Léon Bing's book A Wrongful Death)
- Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan's The Death of Innocents, which documents how the trial of a mother for having murdered her five children turned into a reassessment of the notion of SIDS or "crib death" being a disease that runs in families.
- Or how about a biopic of Lester Bangs? After Almost Famous I thought this would be a shoo-in.