Have you noticed that no one really talks about films anymore unless it’s in terms of box office, or distribution. When a new film comes out, they are so marketed that, if there is any actual discussion about the film, it’s almost like a talking point that been put out there by some smart marketing person. So you can go see Julie and Julia and come out saying, “it was ok, but wasn’t Meryl Streep just wonderful”. Or you can see Paranormal Activity in the theater because “the reason to see it is to share the collective experience” of a bunch of people in the theater screaming. Watch. When someone recommends a film to you, they’ll almost almost always pull one of those talking points out as if they just thought of it. It’s an amazing thing to see.
But they are just as likely to talk about Paranormal Activity’s path to the big screen, how it cost 20,000 dollars to make and Paramount spent nothing on marketing it. In fact, talking about whether the film is good or not is really besides the point. The biggest selling point you can make for a film is to flout its huge box office – the number one movie in the country is… (this week, Paranormal Activity.) And this success at the box office somehow translates to most people that it is a successful film.
I don’t have to see Paranormal Activity to know that, no matter how much money it makes, it sucks because no one – NO ONE – is talking about what a great movie it is, or getting excited about it, or anything. The best thing you could say about a movie like this is that you took your girlfriend, she got scared and you got to second base. There’s nothing wrong with a movie like that, but some of us want a little more.
I’ve been thinking lately that maybe the reason that there is so much talk about the business of movies, or the dying of the business, is that the movies themselves are so unexciting. I look back to the time of WILD BUNCH and BONNIE AND CLYDE. These films came out before my time, but I read a lot of criticism that came out around them when they were released. They were exciting films. They were violent, caught up in the violence that was happening in Vietnam. They were great, important films that demanded to be seen and discussed.
Where is that vitality in movies now?
I haven’t seen ANTICHRIST yet, but, although this is a film that’s meant to provoke and be discussed, it sounds like it’s not quite good enough to do that. It’s been marginalized as loopy because of some gory sex stuff which is also being put out there as part of the marketing campaign.
I keep hearing about all these great films that are coming out that aren’t getting distributed and I’m sure there are some great ones, but what film needs right now is a reason to exist beyond making money – not just for studio executives and filmmakers, but also for the audience.
Films can be amazing things, but somehow life has been drained out of them.
Film is art and art is important. That’s where the discussion should start. Who cares if the film business goes down in flames if its heart has already stopped beating?