Although the real question keeping Hollywood awake in 2012 is “Does Winston Wolf clean up dead hookers on Yom Kippur?”, the fine folks over at HitFix have put forth a handful of queries of varying importance which filmmakers, studios and fans might have on their minds this year. It’s their 15 Questions Keeping Hollywood Awake in 2012.

With concerns from Lindsay Lohan’s possible last chance to Joss Whedon’s first real shot with The Avengers, it’s an intriguing list that might prove 2012 to be both an endlessly fascinating and completely irrelevant year in the stories behind the movies.

Will Smith, Found Footage, Hunger Games, Dark Knight Rises and more. HitFix has questions, and here are the answers:

1. Can Joss Whedon finally conquer the feature film world with Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers?

Answer: No and Yes

It’s easy to think of Whedon as a niche creator because of Firefly, but he’s far from being a secret. After all, the guy got his start writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wrote for Toy Story and has gone on to build successful television franchises that inspire healthy viewing numbers and rabid followings. But will he bust out of the middle to become a go-to director this year? Yes. It’s going to be a big year for him, but it’s important to keep in mind that while he’s had two decades in the business, his career as a director is incredibly young.

Cabin in the Woods will hit his fans right where it counts, but it’s really The Avengers that will deliver for him. The only way it won’t is if he absolutely biffs it. Barring catastrophe, he’ll be set up nicely with a blockbuster haul and the world at his fingertips. That is, if he even wants to conquer the feature film world.

2. Will Hollywood really give Lindsay Lohan another chance, or is she done now?

Answer: Done.

The recent revelation that Lohan was “in talks” to play Elizabeth Taylor for a Lifetime movie was either publicity fuel for a television movie or proof that Lohan is going to start working in Lifetime movies. Her slate of forthcoming flicks is non-existent (save for a Sham-wow Guy-directed comedy starring Rob Schneider called InAPPropriate Comedy), and she’s nearly non-insurable.

HitFix raises the example of Robert Downey, Jr. finding new life and then answers their own question by pointing out his depth of work. However, maybe there’s a correlation here. Maybe Lohan will slink quietly into minor roles for a decade and then re-emerge like a redheaded Phoenix when Fox eventually reboots X-Men in 2023 or finally commits to that Mother Teresa biopic.

3. Is Will Smith still a giant movie star, and is anyone really excited about another Men In Black?

Answer: Of course, even though movie stars don’t really exist anymore.

Will Smith’s last acting appearance was Seven Pounds, which was released 4 years ago, but it’s not like he hasn’t been busy. It’s unclear whether anyone who reads movie sites is scratching at the walls to see Men In Black 3 only because we all suffer from Years-Later Sequel Fatigue, but why wouldn’t a giant amount of people be excited about seeing another film in a franchise that was largely fun and harmless?

Plus, it has the last weekend in May all to itself to launch the summer in a slot that historical makes bank. Smith will open over $100m with it, and then face his real test: opening an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

4. How many found footage movies can Hollywood make before audiences stop falling for it?

Answer: 48.

That answer is a bit of joke, but it’s because the question is misleading. It assumes that audiences enjoy going to see Found Fauxtage Movies because they’re somehow duped every time into thinking the stuff on screen is real. The family in those Paranormal Activity pictures sure did take a lot of home movies!

Almost no one is fooled by the genre anymore, but filmmakers are still using it and toying around with it. The Devil Inside just made a killing despite being booed by critics and fans, Todd Phillips is using the concept outside of horror for Project X (which follows in the footsteps of The Virginity Hit), and superheroes are getting the treatment with Chronicle (although people swear the entire movie isn’t simply made up of “found” footage). It’s a genre unto itself, and it seems to be expanding – not failing.

5. Can the American Pie franchise return to theatrical relevance after a string of direct-to-video sequels?

Answer: Yes.

For one, does anyone who would go see this movie really care that there were a bunch of direct-to-video sequels? Doubtful. Either they’re going because they 1) enjoyed the direct-to-video sequels 2) thought the first theatrical flicks were fun and want to see the gang back together or 3) saw the surprisingly funny trailer and decided it was worth a shot. Will it be as big a box office success as the original trilogy? Most likely not, but that’s because everyone else will be going to see Titanic. And, yes, Titanic is up against an American Pie movie. The industry has conspired to make it feel like the late 90s again. Is Natalie Imbruglia still alive to benefit from a career resurgence?

6. Is Prometheus going to turn out to just be a prequel after all?

Answer: Who cares?

This is the kind of question that gets in the way of actually enjoying films. Call it Brown Windsor Soup if you want, it’s still a new Alien movie from Ridley Scott. Rejoice, and remember to turn your cell phone off in the theater.

7. Can Seth McFarlane convince audiences to come see his wildly expensive foul-talking Teddy Bear movie?

Answer: Yes.

Seth McFarlane prints money for a living. He’s crafted a loyal fanbase that enjoys his sense of humor (which happens to be spread across three successful television shows on a major network). Plus, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis bring their own appeal to the project, and it also has the benefit of being different from everything else being shoved into theaters these days. Is it risky to produce a $65m feature starring a foul-mouthed CGI teddy bear? Probably, but it’s just the kind of crazy that McFarlane pulls off.

8. Which Abraham Lincoln will audiences embrace, the vampire killer or the method actor?

Answer: Both.

There’s nothing that say audiences can’t love both. There’s bound to be a Venn Diagram somewhere of people who will love Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter chopping away with his axe and/or who will love Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln chewing the scenery away with his talent. At the end of the day, it’s not like they’re going to both be competing for the same awards or ticket sales, and only Vampire Hunter is even trying to be historically accurate.

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

9. Can Relativity survive?

Answer: Yes.

Ryan Kavanaugh and company have made some bold choices for their production company, and some have cost them stability. However, as HitFix points to the potential box office flops of Act of Valor and Mirror, Mirror, it’s just as easy to call them potential moneymakers based on the reverence and curiosity for Navy SEALs and for the mash-up of Julia Roberts, Tarsem Singh and a fairytale everyone can recognize. Plus, they hardly have nothing in the pipeline. Granted, Relativity spread itself thin in 2011, it’s time for a rebuilding year, a new focus, and fewer films like Tower Heist.

10. Can 20th Century Fox open The Three Stooges?

Answer: No.

The Farrelly Brothers may see The Three Stooges as a passion project, but it’s got C-list talent, and the trailer felt like watching your dentist do stand-up comedy at the church talent show. Unless they can find one funny scene from the shoot and milk it into an entire new trailer, this thing is sunk.

11. Which 3D re-release is the bigger hit: Star Wars: Episode 1 or Titanic?

Answer: Titanic

Is this even a question? The crappiest Star Wars movie up against the second highest grossing movie of all time?

12. Will The Dark Knight Rises outgross The Dark Knight?

Answer: Yes.

Despite the usual questions surrounding a movie that’s this greatly hyped, Christopher Nolan has yet to disappoint. It’s also the last chapter in a series that’s been incredibly loved, and like Harry Potter before it, it stands to break its own records. At any rate, whether it breaks $1b or not hardly matters as it will undoubtedly make a metric ton of cash for Warners.

13. Is Hunger Games the next blockbuster franchise?

The Hunger Games movie

Answer: Yes, but the block won’t be as big as Batman, and that’s okay.

This is the most difficult question to answer because everything that goes into calculating its possible success is speculation. The only thing that seems most likely is that it won’t nearly be as big as Harry Potter but it might be as big as Twilight. It has a shot of catching fire with general audiences by delivering a thoughtful story and excellent action, but judging solely from book sales places its success more in the Dragon Tattoo range. Unlike the foreign smash that pulled in over $100m, this has the Hollywood benefit of being an American export, which means if the movie is genuinely good (and audiences embrace it), it could easily see numbers north of $400m. If it’s a mess or is too fan-favoring, it will stall out far below it.

14. Will Akira ever move forward?

Answer: Not unless Christopher Nolan wants to direct it.

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea except it would prevent him from making his Howard Hughes biopic. In reality, this movie is just too risky. Studios are starting to see the formula of name recognition falter, remakes aren’t working and putting the money necessary to bring this kind of scope to life for a cult anime project would be harder than coming down from a government mandated nuclear test that turns you into a giant monster.

15. Can Melissa McCarthy become a bona fide movie star?

Answer: Maybe, but not this year, and movie stars don’t exist anymore.

Melissa McCarthy should have gotten this kind of attention when she tripled co-starred in The Nines, but fortunately her time in the spotlight has come. 2011 was good to her, she was good to audiences, and she’s lined up projects like Judd Apatow’s This is 40, she’ll co-star with Jason Bateman in ID Theft soon, and she’s got the starring role in Tammy – a movie about a woman who loses her job and her man before hitting the road with a grandmother who swears like a CGI teddy bear. She has some solid stuff lined up, and her talent will continue to find her work, but “movie star”? What’s the criteria here? Is Jason Bateman even a “movie star”? More likely, McCarthy will smartly build a steady career that showcases a range that people don’t even seem to know about yet. Isn’t that good enough?

The Real Question: Will Studios Focus More on Story and Less on Flashy Gimmicks and Inflated Prices?

Answer: Outlook Hazy

What movie questions keep you up at night?


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