EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: GIVING THE DOG A BONE

A man who likes mainstream movies recently lamented that he had come back from The Chronicles of Riddick and felt like he wasted his money. “I don’t even know why I saw it,” he told me. “The trailer didn’t even look good. Why doesn’t Hollywood make good movies anymore?”

The answer, America, is him.

For the first time in my life, I think I’m siding with Hollywood. Hollywood keeps turning out crap because people keep going to see it. Hollywood isn’t about art. It’s about money. If bland and predictable movies keep making money, Hollywood will keep pumping them out. If millions went to see Maria Full of Grace, we’d see a half dozen clones of that within a year. It’s simple economics, but some people just don’t get it.

I’m not a huge fan of most blockbusters. I find them tiresome and am not entertained by them nearly as much as Hollywood thinks I should be. Some people won’t watch anything but blockbusters, and they make no apologies for it. They want their movies in an easy-to-understand format with few surprises. There are others, however, who treat these blockbusters as if they are Hollywood’s attempts at serious art. These are the people who continually complain about Hollywood’s lack of interesting movies, while at the same time being first in line for tickets to the five p.m. showing of “Agent Cody Banks.”

There’s nothing wrong with going to the movies for pure entertainment. It’s not something I do because I tend to look at the medium as an art form, but I can understand why some people just want ninety minutes of brain-dead fun. There is something wrong, though, with going to see idiot- proof movies and then complaining about them. Their participation in the game is what ensures it continues. Believe me, if nobody went to see “Legally Blonde” it would’ve been a lot harder to get the sequel off the ground.

Hollywood is a capitalist entity. Those thinking it has higher aspirations are deluded. Sure, some directors and actors may want to elevate the art, but the studio executives only want to raise profits. They do that by giving the people what they want. If White Chicks made a billion dollars, you’d see a sequel and four other films with the same type of plot. At the same time, if a foreign film like I Stand Alone brought a major studio a couple thousand percent increase in profit, you’d see more films like that on the big screen. (And that has happened with foreign films … to a certain extent. Hollywood is slowly realizing there is an audience for these films, which tend to bring in some pretty decent returns compared to the amount of money spent making and acquiring them.) Hollywood isn’t making bold decisions about art. It’s making economic moves based on pie charts and demographics. Hollywood is run by numbers guys, and they don’t give a damn about art.

In a way, I can’t blame Hollywood. My personal belief is to never give an audience what it wants, but give it what it deserves. Never talk down to them, and always create from the heart. There’s not a lot of money in that, but the integrity can’t be beat. Hollywood, however, is a machine, and machines need to be run certain ways or they break down. The executives realized this a long time ago, and the movies reflected that bit of knowledge. There is a way to fix all of this, though. There is a surefire way of making Hollywood a place of respect and art once again.

Stop patronizing crappy movies. Hollywood studios won’t keep spending millions of dollars on films nobody goes to see. That’s why there is no “Wild Wild West” sequel. It’s a simple truth that Hollywood studios would rather spend a tiny amount of money on an artistic film if it meant millions in box office receipts. That’s just not happening yet, though, because not enough people are going to see them. Blame advertising, blame PR, or blame our entertainment-based culture. Either way you cut it, the truly excellent and cutting-edge films aren’t getting the audiences they deserve.

Stopping the cycle is the only way to kill this beast. And if you refuse to do that, at least stop complaining about it. Like smokers who cry about getting lung cancer, you only have yourself to blame.

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Posted on October 7, 2004 in Features by

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