Okay, so a lot of us complain that there’s isn’t enough “art” in showbiz today. Recently, a filmmaker compared “soulless” Hollywood movies to “fast food.”
Ironically, the movie business can learn a thing or two from the fast food business.
McDonalds, for instance, has the reputation for never running out of French fries. Sadly, the cinema doesn’t have a reputation for always having something for everyone anymore. They should at least have more movies that children under fifteen are legally allowed to see in this country. Come on, how hard is it to delete a few of the swear words from the script and not show so much blood?
Hollywood is not about making money, they are about gratifying egos.
During the Bush era especially, so many movies were just about politics, kind of thumbing their nose at Bush, and at half the potential audience. I remember at the end of Avatar, one viewer said “that’s about Iraq.” (Even the academy nominations were increasingly political.) I remember the film festivals I was trying to enter in Arizona seemed to be about two things, both of which were unpopular subjects just a few years before, and both of which represented oppositions to Bush’s policy.
As far as the money, well, if Hollywood doesn’t want to listen to their customers, fine. Stick their heads in the sand. That’s more opportunity for real storytellers who know that people like stories.
Some call Hollywood chewing gum for the brain, or say that movies are chewing gum for the eyes. I hope these people aren’t working for Hollywood, because maybe then they have chewing gum over their eyes and in their brains.
The cinema is a great social event. In that event, the viewers expect to be told a story. It could be a joke, a ghost story, a bedtime story, or any kind of story. But the viewers aren’t just there to chew popcorn in the dark, (they can do that at home or in a restaurant).
Even if it were chewing gum, in a sense, great gum makers know that there is good and bad gum.
There’s that cheap gum which looses its flavor in a matter of seconds, that gets hard in less than a minute and isn’t useful for anything other than sticking under your desk at school so that some other kid can be disgusted when it gets stuck on his knee.
Then there’s that really nasty gum that doesn’t taste that great to begin with, is tough from the start, yet is filled with all kinds of sugar that rots your teeth and chemicals that give you cancer.
But if you’re lucky, you live by a shop that has some of that nice chewing gum that not only stays chewy and preserves its flavor for a time, but is flexible enough to allow you to blow beautiful bubbles that fall softly on your nose as they pop. This gum doesn’t have too much sugar, and if when you chew this gum, it actually helps clean your teeth by producing saliva.
There is, in other words, good and bad chewing gum. Those who look down on chewing gum, or who look down at the movies in general, also tend to look down at their customers.
If Hollywood were indeed chewing gum for the brain, then many so-called “art” films would be nicotine for the eyes. They taste awful at first, but they are so filled with the nicotine of lewdity and violence in the name of “art” that they apparently become addictive. Then the viewer craves more of the same, without gaining any spiritual or intellectual nurishment.
The addicted viewers of these so-called “art” films tend to give better ratings to films that have more swearing, more lewdity, more violence, or are generally more crass, even though they don’t seem to really enjoy these movies. No, they are just excusing their addiction by pretending that it is somehow good for them.
Now, not all art films are nicotine for the eyes. Some provide spiritual and intellectual nourishment. Some provoke thought. Some truly are great, and don’t require any kind of addiction or false high to be enjoyed. These art films tend to be quiet movies, soothing and peaceful films that many “indie” filmmakers are starting to ignore. These classics have little to do with the R rated garbage that passes itself off as art and even wins awards today.
If you’re making fast food, try and add an option for a side salad. Or at least understand what customers want in a good chewing gum. Make sure the quality is high. Making a quick profit today at the expense of customers tomorrow is not the way to run a business. Consistency will help in the long term.
On the other hand, if you’re making health food, well, learn your nutrician. Make sure the food is fresh and healthy, and don’t rely on “acquired” tastes.
Hollywood could learn from the fast food industry (and art cinema can learn from the health food industry.)
Above and below are cropped and manipulated versions of Gillray’s 1803 political cartoon “The Hand Writing upon the Wall“