Friday, May 18, 2012

Hollywood Today

With the advent of the horrible looking What to Expect When You're Expecting... the movie!, a film no one asked for that is based on a reference book about parenting, Hollywood has officially hit rock bottom. I know, I know. It seemed like they'd gotten there with the also recently released Battleship, a movie based on a board game (item #437 on the list of things I thought I'd never write), or maybe when someone had the audacity to remake Total Recall. Maybe we could blame George Lucas who, instead of making anything new has just been endlessly revising the Star Wars franchise. But no, I place the blame squarely upon the shoulders of Expecting, and here's why.

This movie uses the tired trope of the gigantic ensemble cast. There was a time when this idea was innovative and fresh, now it's just an excuse to cram as many stars as possible into a film while not having to actually do any work whatsoever with the script. Movies in this format never allow the audience to connect with the characters. Instead of watching a character grow and develop to a satisfying resolution, the payoff is finding out how all of the characters are related which, as a side effect of the prevalence of these types of movies, is exceedingly simple to sort out after everyone has been introduced.

The fact that this movie was made spells doom for the future of film. Excuse me, not of film, but of movies. Let's go through this. First, someone had to think to themselves, "You know what would make a really cool movie...?" I imagine they did this while blowing lines off a pregnant woman's stomach, as I imagine most Hollywood movie ideas germinate. Then this person found someone else who thought this was a good idea. Shockingly, this happened. Someone had to take the time to write the script. (This person I like to imagine saying, "You want to do what now? Seriously? And you'll pay me how much? Sucker.") And then all of these stars read this script and agreed to do it. Yes, money is tempting, but for god's sake have some integrity.

The last piece of this tapestry of shame belongs to the audience who will no doubt fill the theaters, thereby perpetuating the cycle of awful movies as Hollywood realizes no matter what kind of shit-smeared diaper they splash across the screen, if J. Lo is in it, the people will come. (And come on, J. Lo! You've done good movies! You know better.) People refuse to admit they're watching the same movies over and over. Sometimes literally as in the endless parade of remakes released every year, and other times more surreptitiously, with the exact same plot trotted out over and again. Fast food restaurants have long understood the value of serving the same product at all of their franchises, it's what rocketed McDonald's to fame, but movies aren't supposed to simply nourish you (and I realize using McDonald's and "nourish" in the same sentence is questionable). Film, books, art, dance, drama... they're meant to feed your soul, lift you up and inspire you. Movies should evoke emotion, and not in a pat way (child with cancer = sad), but in a way that makes you think a little differently and really feel something.

Yes, there's a place for lighthearted entertainment. But there are examples of that which still have value beyond a tired old plot. Bridget Jones' Diary looks like a standard chick flick, but with snappy dialogue and a great cast, it inspires. Blade Runner is a terrific example of sci-fi that goes beyond slick FX and questions what is human. The original (from the 70's, NOT the 80's) Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrifies without resorting to gore. Notice a trend? These are all older movies. When it seemed that Hollywood took the time to come up with new ideas and trusted the audience to want to think a little. Because honestly, what is Hollywood telling us when they make drivel like Expecting? That we're not smart enough to know better. For the love of god, moviegoers. Prove that you know better.

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