Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Reading: The Day The Movies Died

movie-palace-03Tonight, Hollywood will gather to celebrate the best last year had to offer in cinema. Crazy ballerinas, mumbling cowboys, crackhead boxers, stuttering kings, socially-handicapped billionaires: all will be honored by the industry that bore them, then they’ll compete for a shiny little man.

Don’t be fooled, says Mark Harris writing for GQ, into thinking this is the real Hollywood. Real Hollywood values money above everything else, including na├»ve “artistic” aspirations, he argues. That doesn’t sound so heinous, at first; it takes money to make art, after all. But it starts to get real depressing when you step back and consider all of the crap Hollywood peddles in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Harris’ article “The Day The Movies Died” points fingers at the producers of the 1980s (who have since begotten an entire generation of mimics) for prioritizing marketing over the movie itself. From which virus did this particular strain of blockbuster disease spring? Top Gun. Harris writes:

“Then came Top Gun. The man calling the shots may have been Tony Scott, but the film's real auteurs were producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, two men who pioneered the "high-concept" blockbuster—films for which the trailer or even the tagline told the story instantly. At their most basic, their movies weren't movies; they were pure product—stitched-together amalgams of amphetamine action beats, star casting, music videos, and a diamond-hard laminate of technological adrenaline all designed to distract you from their lack of internal coherence, narrative credibility, or recognizable human qualities. They were rails of celluloid cocaine with only one goal: the transient heightening of sensation.”

That movie-as-product philosophy, the one that demands a film have a slavering audience before the cameras even start rolling, is the impetus for these upcoming train wrecks: Asteroids, the Magic 8-Ball movie, Oliver Stone’s Monopoly nonsense, and much more.

Harris implores Hollywood to greenlight the next Inception, whoever’s making it. He has faith that the American audience who paid good money for Christopher Nolan’s particular flavor of mind-bending action will embrace another with equally high ambitions. However, he has considerably less faith in the industry hell-bent on ignoring Inception’s success so that it can make – what else? – Top Gun 2.