Audience member number 9413
What movie did you go see this weekend? Transformers? Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles? An Adam Sandler comedy? Which Superhero did you have the good grace to see fly around today? No matter how you try to justify your tastes by stating you’re not hurting anyone by seeing these films, the fact of the matter is you are. Is it all just your fault or the Hollywood systems? Like a parent having to teach their child a tough lesson I must be blunt.
I’m sorry to say this but Americans enjoy simplistic entertainment to match our yearning for easy answers to complicated issues. American cinema from its earliest roots presented a multitude of different types of stories. They could be something as crushingly relevant as The Best Years of Our Lives or uplifting as It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet cinema wasn’t truly challenging the audiences perception of what they could take during its early eras. Everything had their own safe route not allowing for anything taboo. They were all films your grandmother could enjoy. Following after the tradition of the New Wave Cinema movements, most popularly the French New Wave it wasn’t until 1967 that Hollywood began their own New Wave movement with New Hollywood presenting movies that were a protest to the politics of its time. Thrown into the New Hollywood mix were various disaster films along with the rise of Independent Cinema through the likes of Eraserhead and Pink Flamingos. Cinema found its most versatile tone amongst multiplexes in the United States since its initial creation. The movie theatre offered its citizens hardly any escape from their own troubles. They saw the absolute abomination that is our headline grabbing de humanizing media through Network. They also witnessed the results of the mental casualties of war when viewing The Deer Hunter. America couldn’t find relief with the exception of two shimmering lights of simple entertainment. The humans winning over the big bad monster in Jaws followed by the The rebels taking on the empire in Star Wars. With these two films Hollywood began to see its true money making potential that it hasn’t remotely come close to witnessing before.
With the success of Jaws, and Star Wars, Hollywood found their secret sauce. They realized the best way to get people to leave their homes and fork out their cash wasn’t to provide them with movies about the complexities of the human condition but rather pure escapism. The time was perfect to mass produce these types of films. By the end of the 60’s and 70’s America was ready for a break. They didn’t want to be reminded of war. They didn’t want to be reminded of corrupt politicians. They didn’t want to be reminded that they were living amongst a broken system. They didn’t want to see stories reflecting their own problems any longer. They wanted to escape. So they went back to living a Capricorn era type of life where the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad. Everything was clean cut and filled with happy rainbow colors. They decided to elect a former movie actor who liked to play cowboy as their President. They began to wear bright colorful fun clothes, listen to non establishment threatening rock groups like Poison and Ratt. They turned their hair into gigantic curly puffs. Flash took over substance while there were still problems happening within the American establishment. How did Americans choose to pay attention to their ongoing problems? They decided to ignore them by seeing The Terminator because Skynet was the real enemy. Given that Star Wars made $460,998,007 as an overall lifetime domestic gross we fell victim to our own empire. We were promised a time of peace of economic prosperity. President Ronald Regan even devised an economically extravagant yet ineffective anti-ballistic missile program called “Star Wars. Much like a man stuck in cryogenic sleep we lost our own sense of time.
It has been thirty six years where we are still currently asleep. The economy hit a crisis in 2008 that only had been surpassed by the Great Depression. We had a second Vietnam like war in the Middle East. America is no longer the best country in the world. Americans need for escapism has helped them evade their own reality. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens ranking in a domestic total of $935,528,312 we can’t wait to go on our next adventure. Spielberg and Lucas’ method of cookie cutter simplistic characters coupled with neat bow tied endings has worked its money making magic for a very long time. We’ve taken into far too many calories worth of Steve and George’s secret sauce. With those calories we’ve gained an excessive amount of weight to the point in where we won’t even leave our own households to see a film. We can watch it on our televisions through a magical streaming box. Sometimes we can even watch movies on our telephones. What would be the point of leaving home when you can see something while laying in bed at the same time?
For everything that I have stated I must sound like your typical fun killing cinema snob. Not so. As much as I strongly complain about the conformity that Hollywood has created for the modern cinema it was the blockbusters that turned me into a lover of film. 1989’s Batman by Tim Burton left me wanting to fight crime while wearing a cool black cape. It helped me discover dynamic film scores. I recall playing Danny Elfman’s soundtrack multiple times on a cassette tape through my parents home theatre speaker system with my eyes closed dreaming of my own film featuring The Phantom of The Opera to the tune of Elfman’s Batman compositions. Batman made me realize how each film can be distinctly different through its mis en scène by comparing the the dark 1989 incarnation of the caped crusader to the cheesy Adam West 60s version. Star Wars was an experience that I like many others couldn’t even begin to describe its magical impact on me. Most of my life I have obsessed over the next Star Wars film. I saw every Star Wars movie multiple times in the theatre including the latest one and can’t wait for the next entry whether it be Episode VIII or Rogue One. I even think Steven Spielberg is brilliant. I don’t at all feel cynical towards him or George Lucas for creating the system that Hollywood is today. Hollywood chose to echo the sensibilities of Spielberg’s work. It wasn’t Spielberg himself forcing the system to make every movie thematically like his. George on the other hand is a man who truly is an artist. He is a lover of experimental film that got trapped as the guy who created the blockbuster. I only feel cynical towards the executives who wanted to make every movie like Star Wars and Jaws. Much like enjoying a good simple film I enjoy complicated cinema at the same time. It’s what the Chinese call yin and yang. I’m not saying every film should be as utterly depressing as Requiem for A Dream but not every movie should be as easy to follow as Ferris Bueler’s Day Off either. We can enjoy both of our own formulas. Try different recipes. You might be surprised to discover what you like.
In a practical world we would see both types of cinema. One with complicated characters and ambiguous endings as well as films with simple to follow plot lines that are unchallenging to the human mind. In reality the money is invested in the franchises of today. No film is good unless there’s potential for a sequel let alone a trilogy. Everything currently is adapted from other material opposed to original stories being brought to the table. Nobody is going to make a Lego set of Deliverance. At least I’d very well hope not. The question becomes how can Hollywood turn a profit from originality? Simple. Don’t see ONLY standard Hollywood films. Split your shares 50-50. See Superman one day then an art house film the next. If we start to invest more of our own money into high art maybe the studios will begin to take notice. The ratio of blockbusters compared to more experimental films will always be on higher demand but at least we can somewhat level the playing field. I dream of the day where we can see more personal stories developed on a higher budget than they currently are made on. Granted the budget wouldn’t meat the caliber of something like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but if we could invest more of our money into experimental films then perhaps Hollywood will provide filmmakers who have a burning desire to create an original picture a slightly bigger piece of the cake. We are not neanderthals after all. We have just been suckered in by simple entertainment. I understand why folks like uncomplicated cinema. It’s luring. It’s much easier to see a fun space adventure opposed to a psychological drama about someone’s life falling apart. Who the hell wants to see a depressing film? It takes a large amount of trust to throw money down on a movie where you have no idea what you’re getting into. Yet the reward sometimes for doing so is far beyond the $10.50 you just spent. Maybe you’ll walk out of a picture that you’ll truly love until the end of time. As pretentious as it may sound if we can change the way entertainment is shaped then maybe we can expand our minds in other areas as well. It’s up to you.