Dude,…Those Explosions Were, Like…Really Awesome.
In the 1970s, cinema underwent a cosmic shift. We still see it’s effects to this day. There are two filmmakers that bear most (but not all) of the responsibility: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. With films like Jaws and Star Wars, they moved the focus of mainstream films away from characters and plot to spectacle and special effects. Movies became bigger, louder and more profitable.
The summer blockbuster was invented, with the goal of summoning the mob. The mob wants to see big explosions, scantily-clad women, impossibly buff men and stunning vistas where all of the mind-blowing action unfolds. Whether the characters are compelling and well-written or not, or whether the plot is coherent and realistic or not, are not top of mind considerations for the mob. As long as they’re bombarded with enough stimuli to achieve enough sensory overload so that they forget about daily life, they’re content.
“Rome is the Mob. He’ll Bring Them Death. And They Will Love Him For It.” – Senator Gracchus, Gladiator (200)
While everyone has a few guilty pleasure movies that they laugh with their friends about, the direction that mainstream cinema has taken in the last half-century is scary. It’s the entertainment equivalent of what happened in the 2016 election. White Evangelicals elected Donald Trump for president because they were angry. He was effectively tapped into that anger and then he fed them spectacular promises that were easy to understand and digest. Now Trumpism is a religion, more specifically a cult. His followers will follow him anywhere, no matter what. They continue to go to his rallies. He continues to spew venom at them, which continues to fire them up. It’s a vicious cycle, but they seem to love it.
Mindless blockbusters are to film-goers what Donald Trump is to democracy. They’re conditioning people to stay away from challenging, intellectual, artful and constructive pictures because they don’t provide the immediate gratification of sensory overload. It’s like a child preferring ice cream over vegetables. The obesity epidemic in the United States is another relevant analogy with regard to film-goers’ movie habits. Movie studios will make any movie as long as it is profitable, just like how food companies will gladly make unhealthy products that give consumers heart disease. People vote with their wallets. Thus, the solution to the issue is convincing people to alter their behavior.
It’s Time to Be a Dick.
Self-righteousness condescension has always been the most effective way of convincing people to change their ways, right? 🙂 I think so too. So, without further delay, here are some reasons why you should mercilessly torment people that have horrible taste in movies:
- Sending the Wrong Signal to Studios: When moronic movies make big bucks, studios believe people want more. When movies tank, sequels aren’t made. This is how we stop the cancer from growing.
- Peoples’ Attention Spans Become Non-Existent: I was forced ,last year, to see the most recent Resident Evil movie. Holy Mother of God. My brain was so bombarded with stimuli that it couldn’t interpret what I was seeing properly. Is that the level of activity onscreen that is necessary to keep people engaged? Are their attention spans that short? That’s sad, almost to the level of a public health crisis. Maybe if the majority of movies actually had a plot with meaning, people could make it five minutes without a fight scene.
- Lazy Filmmaking Techniques Are Perpetuated: Sometimes, the success of certain genre films perpetuates lazy film-making tactics. One of the most prominent is the “jump-scare” in the horror film. It is overdone to the point of absurdity and is a derivative tool of a lazy film maker. Here is how much skill it takes: when you’re roommate is about to walk in the door, hide and then jump out at them. Congratulations, you’ve mastered the jump scare. The absolutely chilling Hereditary that just came a out a couple weeks ago is being hailed as the scariest movie of the year. It did not have one jump scare. The Witch a couple years back was another example of a harrowing horror film without trite scares. I want to be scared by caring about the characters and the peril that they are in, not by something jumping out at me. Here are some other horror movies with no jump scares: The Exorcist, The Shining, Hellraiser, Bone Tomahawk, It Comes at Night. There are certainly times when jump scares are effective and warranted. Recent pics that did them relatively well are: A Quiet Place, It, The Descent. However, what made those movies memorable and scary was the plot and character development.
- Audiences Lose Taste for Challenging Movies: Transformers, Fifty Shades of Grey, Battleship, Underworld, Jurassic World, etc. These are all high-grossing, easy to digest movies (some of which have harmful sub-messages). When this is all that people watch, they can’t stand intellectually or artistically challenging movies. Experiencing a work of art and struggling with it to uncover it’s meaning is a difficult process. But it’s also a very rewarding one once someone has gone through the journey. When people never challenge themselves with complex, multi-layered films, they’re cheating themselves. They’re castrating their faculty of artistic interpretation.
- The Art of Film-making is Lost: True film-making is an art. It’s not just about seeing how much CGI-figures can be crammed into one frame for maximum effect. Film is about capturing humanity in the lens. It’s about replicating the human experience for others to see and be enriched by. It’s about seeing far away places and catching a glimpse of what life is like for those different than we are. Authentic filmmakers are artists. But without anyone interested in experiencing that art, their work goes wasted. If more people expose themselves to art outside their comfort zone, they’d have a fuller understanding of the world. That’s good for everyone.