Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Goodnight Hollywood

Inside. The frenzied chants are a distance hum. Despair protects the silence.

Alex bursts through the open door of the hospital room. His shirt soaked with sweat. The others are already there. Each individual expression uniformed in misery.

He knows the answer, but is unable to stop his question:

"Is the screenplay dead?"

Roselyn stands and walks towards him. Softly grasping his hands, she speaks:

"My son. The battle has been lost. You must be strong".

He looks down and his heart forgets to beat. Sitting in the palm of his hand, moistened by  his perspiration is a pair of 3D glasses and a ticket to the remake of "Clash of the Titans".

Outside. The streets are choked with the smog of burning cinemas. The atmosphere electrified by a serenade of wild chants. He walks towards his car, which has succumbed to the blaze. The flames illuminate the spray-painted inscription on the passenger door:

"Long live the 3D motion picture"

Defeated. He throws his manuscript into the inferno and heads towards the last remaining cinema.

End scene.

At the risk of being burned at the stake, shunned or spat on, I have to confess that I'm failing to share recent euphoria for the resurgence of 3D cinema. It's partly due to personal space; whilst others can’t contain their ecstasy over the sensation of cinematic images thrusting themselves onto the surface of one's cornea, I feel like my mind is being invaded by Oompa-Loompas with delusions of world domination. It’s not that I’m being contentious, but feeling like a lab rat simply isn’t my preferred cinema experience. All I gained from watching Avatar was a numbingly painful migraine, resulting in temporary psychosis and hallucinations of flesh eating plants.

But mostly, I detest feeling like I'm being sold something. And unless I'm otherwise missing the point, I see 3D cinema as yet another example of the ruthless marketing, along with  trailers; merchandise and pathetic gimmicks designed to fob us off with the homogeneous, sequel inflated, uninspired fuzz that has saturated Hollywood over recent decades.

Of course, it's not always successful. Take the catastrophic flop of Uma Thurman's latest film "Motherhood". Apparently, its marketers thought they'd go down the exclusive path and only permit one cinema in London to show it, but then some idiot forgot to advertise it, or something like that. Alas, it only sold one ticket on its opening night. Note to Uma: next time you might want to enroll the experts at QVC, if there was ever anyone that could sell shit....

So my ponder is rather simple: what will the next decade of Hollywood look like? Are we doomed to an eternity of repetition, relentless sequels and unnecessary 3D technology?

These days movie makers seem locked in a battle for digital superiority. This would be fine if the fight was over how best to digitally enhance creative, or at best, inspired scripts. But it’s not. At least not as its main motivation. It’s more concerned with how technology can harness entertainment, so that it becomes a commodity to be sold, regardless of the product. In film speak: it’s the 3D which is dragging in record box office numbers. Whilst the film itself? Practically irrelevant.

And Avatar was just the beginning; so far this year Tim Burton's "Alice and Wonderland" and Louis Leterrier’s "Clash of the Titans" have also been released in 3D and we're only in April. Let the mental molestation begin.

Contrast this with Cannes, The British Film Festival and the various other independent festivals. This is cinema in all its glorious dimensions. I love being crippled by contemplation after watching movies like La Haine; Goodbye Lenin; City of God; Taxidermia. Even if these movies had been filmed in a tin can, they’d still be excellent. Because they offer something more. Right?

These types of movies should be what dominate the mainstream, not the margins. It’s not that I don’t understand that big budgets buy more technology, better actors and gifted writers.

But can cinema really be reduced to the sum of its parts?

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  1. The last film I saw in the cinema was Avatar in 3D. Just to see... The message was 'good', the 3D was 'interesting' (I was stoned) but after a while I wanted to take off the glasses. Effects do not make a film.

    The last one I saw before that was The Godfather at the bfi, and before that Terence Davies' Of Time And The City (also at bfi). I can't remember the one before that. I think Hollywood is truly dead. There are simply too many films made and it makes a mockery of the art of film making. Young people, or people in general, should go back and re-visit the classics rather than lapping up hideous remakes like Clash Of The Titans, Get Carter, The Italian Job et al.

    I saw Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky for the first time the other day. It was beautiful. I'd take one of those a year rather than ten brainless 3D 'blockbusters'. It's time for Hollywood to wake up or move over. Surely people won't continue to pay the extortionate ticket prices for the dross that is on offer? Boycott the cinema and they may have to think again....

  2. Avatar was horrible, Alice in Wonderland was horrible, Clash of the Titans looks horrible, but Crazy Heart was horrible too. Crazy Heart made me cry and I left the cinema wanting to smoke or scream away the bleakness and disintegration of life. There have been times in my life when I could watch sad movies and learn something from them and appreciate the cathartic quality of drama, however as of late, I simply don't have the stomach for it. The world is full of issues, and I've got my own and I'm currently not interested in being subjected to all the world's ails through a few fictitious characters. I think this is why 3D succeeds, its so dumbed down. People want to be entertained, they go to the cinema as a diversion from everyday life, an escape. What better way to temporarily experience this release, then through some brainless pretty images flashing full on into your cranium at light speed? Sensory overload!