A View From Behind The Meter
There has been a great deal of discussion about the huge fall-off in box office proceeds this past summer. The figures range between 15% and 22%. Whichever figures are really accurate or not can be disputed, but what can’t be disputed is the dramatic fall-off. The reality here is undisputed. The truth of the matter is that it was the worst box office drop since 1992. However, ticket prices are at an all time high and the movies being made are more expensive than ever before. The product, on the other hand, being produced is totally uninteresting to the movie going public. I suppose that some of it can be attributed to the rise of large home screens that make watching movies at home quite a satisfying experience but I think the product for the most part really stinks. Almost all of the blockbuster sensations are remakes, relying solely on computer graphic eye candy. Story in these sophomoric productions is almost non-existent and individual character personality is lost in cartoonlike costumes worn by boring actors delivering wooden performances that no-one can identify with. Complexity of character doesn’t seem to be a part of the writing staff in these one dimensional melodramas. The movie “Godzilla” was a better commercial for Fiat than it was an entertaining story on the big screen.
More Remakes Than You Can Shake A Stick At
During this last summer the list of remakes seemed interminable and made up half of all movies that came out. Yes, there have always been remakes and usually they were never as good as the original, but there were also original stories produced by filmmakers that had something to say interlaced with those humdrum remakes. Sadly to say there was little of that this last summer and I believe it showed in viewer interest.
So far this year I have clearly watched fewer movies in the theater than in the past twenty years. This year, I went out to the theater to see “Monuments Men”, “Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Divergent”, “Under the Skin”, “Lucy”, and “Magic In the Moonlight”. Of all of the movies, “Under the Skin” was my favorite. It was never predictable and never explained itself to the viewer. Instead the viewer had to engage and explain to oneself what was happening on the screen. I loved it, and my wife and I spent the next two days talking about what the film was really about as it was so intellectually stimulating. It was stimulating and erotic without being provocatively indecent. One had to think while watching and even when the movie ended one discovered one piecing together what had just happened to them. To me it was sheer pleasure. I think my least favorite of the movies that I saw this year was monuments men. I was disappointed in that it was predictable and the characters were pretty wooden while at the same time one dimensional. I was very surprised in that I usually like what George Clooney works on and have been impressed with his body of work. This one however, fell quite short of my expectations and it showed in the box office. It had great cast, it was developed from a true story, but ended up quite a quite boring film which only proved to me that even the best make bad movies. I don’t really know specifically why this years’ crop of films didn’t excite me. For years and years I have always found pleasure in that dark space alone with my thoughts and the big screen enchanting my imagination. This year was different. I saw more movies on AMC at home in front of my TV than ever before. In fact this last Labor Day I watched “Citizen Kane” for probably the tenth time and still enjoyed the film making remembering almost every shot as the story unfolded.
Nothing Compares To The Classics
Perhaps what I’m coming to grips with is that I’m getting real tired of computer graphics and special effects taking precedence over character and plot. All the villains seem invincible and the feats of the heroes are growing more and more impossible. Reality is no longer a factor in any of the movies being put together. Move the plot along so fast that the audience doesn’t recognize how thin the plot. It seems that with all the events going on in the middle east or in the Ukraine you’d think some writer in Hollywood could come up with a story that we as the viewing public could actually relate to but no instead we get “Anchorman 2″ or “Amazing Spiderman 2″. I don’t mind watching zany comedies or comic book treatments on occasion but if that is all Hollywood has to offer the customer, no wonder the box office is dwindling year after year. The creators are leaving the sinking ship and we as the viewing public are getting unimaginative bookkeepers as producers that see only the bottom line as important and have completely lost touch with their audience in the pursuit of the almighty buck. It is obvious that the contempt that they have displayed for their audience is finally coming back to haunt them. Maybe this is just the pendulum swinging and perhaps this haunting will force them to find talent that will create the movies that inspired me to go into this business in the first place. Movies like “Sunset Boulevard”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “Paths of Glory”, and “Wages of Fear” were thrilling stories that I still remember lovingly. None of them relied on special effects or displayed humans with super human capabilities but the characters in these movies resonated with the audience as people whom they could identify. Gloria Swanson, Kevin McCarthy, Kirk Douglas and Yves Montand were remembered forever for playing their roles in these films. All of the characters they portrayed in these films were imbued with human frailties that allowed us, as an audience, to empathize with their plight. Where are these kind writers today? Where are these kinds of stories today? Instead we get “Transformers: Age of Extinction” staring who? Need I say more?
-Michael Rogers, Lighting Consultant & Educational Outreach