Since this is my last column of the year, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look back at 2022 and offer my own perspective on the major events of the past 12 months. Obviously, I offer my own perspective every week, but there were some things that I didn’t write about that I thought were worth covering here, as well as a few things I did write about that I want to revisit.
Either way, you pay for the ticket, you go for the ride, and I like to think I provide a pretty good one, so strap yourself in and get ready to roll. This might get a little bumpy…
CAA BUYS ICM
Holy cats did this come out of nowhere for some of us. For others, this garnered little more than a shrug, but no matter how you slice it, the $750 million merger was gigantic, and its impact rippled throughout the industry. Aside from the obvious (it changed the representation landscape in Hollywood, narrowing the field of major agencies from four to three), it also typified the ongoing consolidation of the entertainment industry as a whole. Some of the most sinister sci-fi I’ve ever seen or read involves corporations taking over everything and, in the process, limiting the resources of the public. On the one hand, this is good for ICM and CAA clients, who now have an even larger behemoth looking out for their interests. On the other, there are plenty of talented people who are inevitably going to get lost in the shuffle — and already have been. I’m hoping that the larger operation means that younger agents get their chance at the big time, and as they do, that they pick up the baton and keep lesser-known but equally deserving creative folks working.
Speaking of consolidation…
AMAZON BUYS MGM
This one was also fairly inevitable, just as I think there is going to be a major acquisition by Apple in the not-too-distant future. Why? For the same reason this deal happened — to expand the movie library, which is what it’s all about these days, as IP continues to be the name of the game. Jeff Bezos spent $8.5 billion to get MGM’s considerable film and television library, which includes James Bond, Rocky Balboa, and plenty more. It’s sort of infuriating to me that Amazon owns the Bond films but refuses to make them available for viewing on Amazon Prime — you can rent them for $4 each — but that doesn’t change the fact that the hundreds of MGM movies that Amazon now owns greatly improve the Prime Video streaming service. That, ultimately, is what wins the Great Streaming Wars, keeping your subscriber numbers high, and making sure they stay on your service as long as possible. I’m actually sort of surprised there haven’t been other, similar deals announced in the eight months since this happened, but stay tuned because I’ll wager they’re coming.
BOB IGER RETURNS
Bob Chapek is not an untalented executive, as evidenced by the billions of dollars he made for Disney when he was running their Parks and Resorts division. But he was never the right guy to succeed Bob Iger, who is only the greatest CEO in recent Hollywood history. Chapek was not used to dealing with Hollywood talent — witness his mishandling of the Black Widow release and the resulting lawsuit Disney faced from its star, Scarlett Johansson — nor was he politically adept enough to deal with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘ risible ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, or the fallout that led Disney to lose its special tax status in the state. You think Iger would have allowed either thing to happen? Chapek was in over his head from the start, and his tenure never really got any better. The question now is, who’s going to succeed Iger the next time he walks away? Does he simply decide to stay forever? Will they have to carry him out of that office feet first because no one else is up to the task? I honestly wonder sometimes…
BATMAN IS REBOOTED — AND BETTER THAN EVER
I don’t know about you, but I rejoiced a few years ago when Matt Reeves, and then Robert Pattinson, were announced as part of the new Batman reboot at Warner Bros. I firmly believed Reeves was the right guy to write and direct it, and I loved the idea of Pattinson playing a young Bruce Wayne and a rather inexperienced Batman. Interestingly, on another website for which I used to write, I once speculated that Pattinson could be a terrific successor to Daniel Craig as James Bond, but this pairing of actor and character was immeasurably better. I loved everything about The Batman, which I saw four times in the theaters and another half-dozen times on HBO Max in recent months. That’s a minimum of 30 hours I’ve spent with the new Caped Crusader this year, and I’m going to guess I’ll spend at least three more before the year ends. This masterful crime movie may not get any awards love, but it should, because not only is it the best superhero movie in recent memory, it’s the greatest version of the Dark Knight that Warner Bros. has ever put on screen.
Not that WB had a perfect year, though. To wit…
WARNER BROS. DISCOVERY BURIES BATGIRL — AND OTHER STUFF, TOO
David Zaslav made himself something of a comic book villain with this move, which I still can’t quite wrap my head around. I mean, I understand the concept of a tax write-down so that you can save money, but the optics of this were just so awful, I feel like there were better ways to save $100 million or so. Part of the cost-cutting also apparently involves removing HBO shows like Westworld from the streaming service, so as to avoid paying royalties and residuals, which must be driving agents and managers all over town completely batty. That’s a lot of money that people were counting on that is no longer coming their way. I wonder how this will all shake out from a financial and dealmaking perspective moving forward. Will representatives now have to bake certain guarantees into deals with WBD so as to avoid this very occurrence? My guess is yes, and if that hasn’t occurred to the people running the show in Burbank, it will soon.
Since we’re on the subject of Warner Bros. Discovery, let’s end on a high note…
DAVID ZASLAV TAPS JAMES GUNN AND PETER SAFRAN TO RUN DC STUDIOS
I’ve already written about this a fair amount, and it’s not worth getting into again here, other than to say that I love the decision and have supreme faith in Gunn and Safran — even if they are moving on from Henry Cavill as Superman. Both of them are smart, talented storytellers, and I can’t wait to see what they do next with DC and its stable of superheroes. One thing I know they won’t be doing? Working with…
ZACK SNYDER, WHO JUST WON’T GO AWAY, NOR WILL HIS DELUSIONAL FANS
I swear to all that’s holy, I have never before seen a filmmaker less talented who is so brilliant at self-promotion, or who inspires such devoted and unquestioned loyalty in his fans. Whenever someone at WB/DC does something that they don’t like, they scream to bring back Snyder, even though all he did was create a lot of slow-motion garbage that most people rightfully dismiss. Lucasfilm refused to give him the keys to one of its Star Wars properties, so he created his own version, Rebel Moon, which will come out on Netflix next year and no doubt earn orgasmic reactions from a small number of obsequious wannabes — and massive eye rolls from the rest of us. Sadly, there is just no stopping him. If only there was…
But we can’t end the year on a negative note, so let’s turn it around and finish on a high one… literally.
TOM CRUISE TRIUMPHS WITH THE YEAR’S BEST MOVIE
I can’t claim that I was really looking forward to seeing Top Gun: Maverick before it came out, but then, a couple of weeks before its release, I got to see it at a special IMAX screening thanks to my buddy Ed Douglas, who brought me as his plus-one. You know how I mentioned above that I saw The Batman in a theater four times? Well, I went to see this movie five times. Yes, really. Five times. Because it’s that good. As much as I love Cruise’s work, and as much as I revere the last three Mission: Impossible movies — and am genuinely excited about the next two — this is the crowing achievement of his glorious career.
It’s fitting that the role that made him a star, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is the same one that would bring him the biggest box office smash of his career, and a surefire Oscar nomination for Best Picture, which it fully deserves to win. Cruise may not land the Best Actor nomination he so richly deserves, but his performance is one for the movie star books.
I loved The Batman because I’m a Batman fanatic who waited his whole life for this specific movie, but I loved Top Gun because of its overall brilliance, and because there just wasn’t another movie this year that was better. Not one. It drops on Paramount+ tomorrow. Guess who’s going to be watching it at home this weekend?
All in all, it’s been a tumultuous year in Hollywood, one that I’ve greatly enjoyed writing about for both Below the Line and my new digs here at Above the Line. Thanks for coming along for the ride with me, and I hope you enjoy the year-end holidays. See you in 2023!
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for more than 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.