18 May 2008

Quality film

I have completed writing my story; 101 pages in all. It sucks toward the end but I got it all out.

With that settled, I again want to talk about film. I know, in this age of imperial rampages, a Negro communist with a good chance of becoming our next president, and millions dead in Mesopotamia, this subject seems frivolous, yet films do say something about our culture and society, aspects that the talking heads like to gloss over.

Why do films today seem so shallow and callous? Like I said, films reflect our society's mores and values. A casual attitude toward violence, sex, and morality is prevalent today and certainly represented in our modern film output. I don't enjoy modern films except perhaps for the thrill value they provide. But you know, I like my films to possess a deeper degree of intelligence than the average Hollywood flick today.

Back in the late 1960s and 70s, but starting as early as the late 1950s, films broke the restrained, convention heavy pattern that was the house style of American cinema from the dawn of sound films onward. First they began to explore heretofore taboo subject matter - you know, adult topics, which for our protection we adults were not allowed to discuss before the rise of the New Hollywood - then began to experiment with new cinematic conventions: different camera angles (outside of the gimmicky novelty techniques of a Hitchcock or Welles), blocking techniques, stuff that made film more fluid and realistic.

For about a decade we were treated to some of the greatest and most intelligent films the American cinema has ever produced. The Godfather. Dog Day Afternoon. Network. Being There. Raging Bull. And of course, Taxi Driver, that masterpiece of American cinematic art. Films which challenged assumptions, which made one think, which were well directed, technically superb, well acted, and fun to watch.

And then came Spielberg and Jaws.

I hate Spielberg and Lucas. They ruined film. They turned Hollywood on to the blockbuster mentality. They made its raison d'etre the pursuit of the next mindless, special effects heavy spectacle which could then be transformed into a commodity, packaged, merchandised, and turned into a franchise. A good number of the biggest films of the past twenty-five years have been part of franchises, or have spawned sequels. Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Alien, Shrek, Spiderman, Batman, Superman - oh, hell, every goddamn superhero film - Jaws, Men in Black - all are franchises.

It's no longer cinema, it's a tool for merchandising.

This reflects the growing shallowness of the American people. In 1976 we could see Travis Bickle and understand that he was a deeply troubled (if interesting to watch) person, yet he had his right to his person and his life, no matter how squalid or depressing - or different. Today we would never tolerate his "antisocial" behavior - we would just ship his ass to Gitmo, and medicate him into a stupor.

Or maybe we would waterboard him until he proclaimed his love for his Dear Leader Bush.

In any case...

The sheeple want standardized shlock where the explosions only kill the bad guys, the stunts look cool but would be fatal if attempted in real life, the hero is a one dimensional cardboard character who always gets the girl in the end. Everything comes from a computer now, is digitally generated - nothing up there on the screen is actually authentic anymore. They want escapist crap that will make them forget for a spell their declining economic position and the fact that this country is fast going to hell in a handbasket.

In real life it ain't that simple. The good folks sometimes suffer horrible fates; the bad folks often die old and in their sleep, content and without a shred remorse for the incredible suffering which they perpetrated on millions. (Bet Bush and Cheney sleep well at night.) Sometimes in trying to save the pretty girl, something goes horribly wrong and she dies a terrible, painful death.

When I see that kind of reality reflected on screen, I might venture back to the cineplex. But for now I continue my boycott against stupidity.