Firstshowing.net has Part One of a two-part guest post by Jason Kaleko on whether we are living in the Age of the Sequel, and if originality in Hollywood is dead as a doornail. Jason cites the AFI 100 and notes that only one film in the entire list is a sequel. True enough, but true also that a lot of them were based on existing source material -- they were not completely original ideas. Just looking at the Top Ten of that list: Casablanca was based off a play, Everybody Comes to Rick's; The Godfather was an adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel; Lawrence of Arabia was based off the writings of T.E. Lawrence, a British officer who spent time in Arabia from 1915-1918; and Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, Schindler's List were all book adaptations. The only truly original works in the Top Ten are Citizen Kane, On the Waterfront, and Singin' in the Rain -- which is not to say that the other films aren't good. It's certainly as much of an art form to adapt an exisiting work as it is to write from scratch.
I don't think there was really any more originality in Hollywood back in the "good old days" than there is now. Studios bought the rights to books, they hired screenwriters (or used underpaid screenwriting staff) to pen adaptations, they made the film. Perhaps it just seems more glaringly bad at the moment because of Hollywood's current love affair with comic-book adaptations and sequels of comic-book adaptations; that trend too, as all Hollywood trends must, will eventually have its end. In the meantime, there's still plenty of original film being made, even it most of it comes out of the indie world. We'll have to check back with First Showing next weeked to see what Jason has to say in Part Two; it feels like he's segueing into talking about indies.
In the meantime, though, what do you film fans and fanatics out there think? Is originality really dead in Hollywood? Or has the death of originality been greatly over-exaggerated?