The Factory System
When you see an article titled “The Day the Movies Died,” you can probably expect a boatload of negativity. That said, Mark Harris’ polemic in this month’s GQ on the state of Hollywood is pretty even-handed. After all, it blames the upcoming string of lame comic book movies and sequels on the one group you might not have expected: Us, the people who do most of the hand-wringing. “We can complain until we’re hoarse that Hollywood abandoned us by ceasing to make the kinds of movies we want to see, but it’s just as true that we abandoned Hollywood,” Harris writes. “Studios make movies for people who go to the movies, and the fact is, we don’t go anymore. […] Put simply, we’d rather stay home, and movies are made for people who’d rather go out.” The moral? If you like movies, start supporting the good ones and ignoring the bad ones. [GQ] (Christopher Rosen, “Only You Can Save Movies, and 7 Other Stories You’ll Be Talking About Today,” Movieline, 18 Feb. 2011)
Anyone who reads Movieline would note that the particular "adult" movie -- Inception -- Harris laments hasn't become the model for Hollywood, is exactly the one Stephanie here blasted for being at-the-core infantile. And something of a sham: putting itself in place of something -- Hitchcock -- that truly was adult, so that the truly childish could never not know themselves to be not-adult (I hope I got that right). They'd also know that The Social Network was hit hard by Armond White for its uncritical look at what is essentially immaturity and a-whole-generation-spread psychological disorder -- autism. Black Swan, too, again by Stephanie, for being so obviously cliche-driven, and yet flummoxingly completely ignorant of it. And though she really liked it, still made aware by her that The King's Speech was first reacted-to by friend critics as essentially middle-brow -- which it is: a taste for luxury and refinement, mass taste/opinion disregard, equals Bad; mostly maintained anal-retentiveness -- this, taking into full consideration all the expletive-exhalation exercises -- just-assumed self-sacrifice for the nation, equals Good. And personally, though I loved True Grit, it had the feel of satisified film-makers who've found their peace (congrads! you deserve it!), and are mostly now offering the field to self-assured new-comers they'll insist to themselves represent a vital, respect-worthy energy, rather than the likes of the gibbering nincompoops we hear of in the film, inflated to emboldened crusader status for embodying an energy way more foul than that (I'm not actually so much thinking Hailee with this -- but more what's to follow). If the lament in the article is mostly that there are few good films being made, I'd say for me it's that the problem Harris identifies throughout his article -- a preference for formula; abandonment of anything "hard" or truly challenging -- afflicts the sort of films he would see more of.
His point that stars aren't as requisite as franchise is interesting. We are living in an age where that previously so often aired wished-for truth for Tiger Woods by sour-grapes, other-pro golfers -- that he wasn't bigger than the game, when, apparent to all, he couldn't more have been at the time -- which has become truth for him, is true now for movie stars as well. It seems to me that what this means is that there isn't going to be anything going on within a film, that out of its uniqueness and budding power, will extend out and set a new standard. The shell, the encasing armor, won't permit it, and the only people who'd step inside it are the ones who wouldn't really think to try it -- whatever their ability to contort themselves, fundamentally they just want their place (I'm more than kinda even looking at you, James Franco and Anne Hathaway). Perhaps that's mostly why the smart stay out of theatres: once we agree to go, we're not really agreeing to participate, but following into the Depression' factory-mode like everybody else. The '60s generation was once told by its elders that they needed to learn the language to have a real voice; they responded -- smartly -- instead by attempting to levitate parliament buildings through love.
I prefer their theatre, but maybe their descendants -- us -- are showing in our own way that we're onto the same truth: participate as directed, and they've got you. We'll let some time pass; let the stupidity follow and take root; and take advantage of stopping surprise and dumbfounding bafflement to hit them with a Citizen Kane at some point, and stay more in the game after that.