Explosions, exploitation: end of era?
Is talent out of the picture, or to be more precise, out of motion pictures?
We hear about “stars” and the “buzz” a film gets, but do moviemaking skills have anything to do with the big screen anymore? Has the business side of the artistic medium finally won?
Think about this: As long as the opening weekend makes its money back, the film is a success and sequels are a go.
Contracts are signed if enough fans want a rumored actor.
Merchandise for movies like “Deadpool,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Suicide Squad” rake in millions before a single scene is viewed. IMAX tickets are prepaid, for the experience …
But is talent of any kind being projected? Does “Smurfs” deserve a sequel? (The answer is “no.”)
It could be argued that actors are the least important part of a movie since a movie idea comes first, is followed by a story, then a script, eventually pitched to a producer (or investor or both), storyboarded out, accepted as a project by a director and finally put together and completed by a production crew.
Inside there, somewhere, are the actors learning lines and conveying fiction to which we can simultaneously relate and escape.
The story of a pretty girl in distress is going to get you hooting and rooting as she becomes bloody and kicks ass (in a revealing halter top), because she’s not just a pretty girl but a pretty girl who can still look sexy while fighting (“Split,” “You’re Next,” Lucy”).
And, for some reason, she’s as angry as the man in the movie showing next door about an ordinary guy who fights better than any UFC fighter (“Captain America: Civil War,” “The Accountant”).
In another theater, a heavyset man or woman is going to talk vulgarly and do things that would be less funny if done by someone with a healthy diet (a trend popularized by Chris Farley, who later regretted being exploited).
Also, slightly talented comedians are going to narrate what they are physically doing but in a yelling, painful fashion to make up for the unfunny material (Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart). And you’re going to roll with laughter, because you’re supposed to.
You’re going to say something was sad because they cued the music (never mind your lack of tears or wandering thoughts). The action won’t get your blood pumping anymore, so they’ll surprise you with a new gore-sight gag.
Meanwhile, the poor actors (the rich ones) are doing their best with the tripe they’re handed, because as long as there are words written for humans to say, they have the chance to play it out the best that they can. (That is, until Siri/Cortana-type actors take over and we completely eliminate character development.)
The movies of today take original ideas and reboot, revamp, reimagine and regurgitate them. The studios and their writer/director minions are merely tapping into our memories and familiarities.
And, yes, sequels and remakes are good examples of what this movie machine is dumping out on us. (Did you know they’re doing a “Chips” movie that could just as easily be entitled “23 Jump Street”?)
Hollywood is using simple storytelling formulas, or even a genre itself, to reel us in.
Ooooo, it’s a scary movie. It will probably be … scary. (Did you also know the laughable concept behind “The Bye Bye Man” managed to get audiences lining out the door?)
Should you only do something if you know it’s been done before? No. Do it, create it, shoot it and premiere it, but do it differently. Do it with some “La La Land” pizzazz (even if there will be a backlash of haters).
My hope: Independent filmmakers out there will continue to have an unconventional way of telling a story. The average movie may vanish in the process, but inventing, and not reinventing, is our only hope for the survival of this important visual medium we call motion pictures.
Oscars are Feb. 26. Will you be watching … closely?
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