In a recent article on Britain’s Guardian newspaper site, he writes about the sorry state of contemporary cinema and, I think, lays the blame where it properly belongs: the average film-goer.
The blockbuster mentality didn’t arrive out of a void. Something compels film studios to release one bad, over-blown, special effects laden abomination after another and that something is money. Filthy lucre. It is, after all, the only thing that matters to Hollywood; those box office grosses determine the pecking order, star power, not to mention the size of the bonus checks studio honchos receive for satisfying their corporate masters.
Every time we, as audience members, pony up for the latest piece of garbage from Michael Bay, JJ Abrams or Zack Snyder, we are basically voting for more bad movies. It’s our fault that cinema has fallen into the toilet…and it’s time to do something about it.
Show some restraint, folks: do you really have to see the latest offering penned by that brilliant writing team, Orci and Kurtzman, the “brains” behind the “Transformers” franchise and the horrible “Star Trek” reboot a few years back? Isn’t it time those two no-talent hacks were sent packing, demoted to jobs more suited to their artistic sensibilities, like writing ad copy for Listermint mouthwash or Trojan ribbed condoms?
Wait. Maybe you’re thinking I’m being elitist, that I’m taking all the crappy movies out there too seriously. Mr. Kermode has a response to that mindset and here it is:
Every time I complain that a blockbuster movie is directorially dumb, or insultingly scripted, or crappily acted, or artistically barren, I get a torrent of emails from alleged mainstream-movie lovers complaining that I (as a snotty critic) am applying highbrow criteria that cannot and should not be applied to good old undemanding blockbuster entertainment. I am not alone in this; every critic worth their salt has been lectured about their distance from the demands of “popular cinema”, or has been told that their views are somehow elitist and out of touch (and if you haven’t been told this then you are not a critic, you are a “showbiz correspondent”). This has become the shrieking refrain of 21st-century film (anti)culture – the idea that critics are just too clever for their own good, have seen too many movies to know what the average punter wants, and are therefore sorely unqualified to pass judgment on the popcorn fodder that “real” cinema-goers demand from the movies.
Yes! Exactly right. No one likes being told how stupid they are, how inane their tastes. Patrons of moron movies are thin-skinned, very prickly when someone criticizes their braindead flicks. They’re quick to lash out, resorting to ad hominem attacks and name-calling because their limited intelligence and nonexistent aesthetic can’t withstand any kind of serious scrutiny (and they know it).
Film historians point to the release of “Jaws” in 1975 as the event that ushered in the blockbuster mentality, others jab a finger directly at “Star Wars”. Spielberg and Lucas—as much as I’d like to lay all the problems of the world at the feet of those two hacks and greedheads, I’m not sure I agree. There was something in the zeitgeist that brought about the Big Picture mentality and I’m not exactly certain what that was. Boredom? Shortened attention spans? Bad schools? Bad parenting? Too much TV?
Whatever the cause, true fans of film, good films, are still suffering for it almost 40 years later.
We’ll only get better movies when we ask for better movies. And we do that by lining up for “Tree of Life” and “Another Year” instead of the latest drek backed by a viral ad campaign. We’re a civilization that’s grown fat and idiotic because we lack the willpower and strength of character to demand the best of ourselves and those who provide us with our food, art and entertainment.
It’s time we got leaner and meaner…in body, mind and spirit.
Drop the junk food and the crap movies: you’ll be surprised how much better you feel afterward.
Not only that, it won’t be so hard to look in the mirror every day. Who knows, after awhile you might actually start liking what you see.