Friday, April 20, 2007

If it hasn't got a button, it's not worth pushing

In The Times yesterday: “Spider-Man 3 is the opening shot in what Hollywood believes will be a record breaking summer at the box-office.” Dear God no! Please don’t let it be record breaking, that’ll give them the impression that what they’re doing is a good idea. It’ll give them completely the wrong idea about how to move, ostensibly, ‘forward’. Here is the list of films expected to be the biggest box-office draws of the summer.

Spider-Man 3
Shrek the Third
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Ocean’s Thirteen

Every one of them a sequel!

The Simpsons movie and the Transformers movie fill out the slate. So far, so lacking originality. There’s not a lot else needs to be said (I’m going to continue regardless, of course, but…) the list speaks for itself. When did we let money become the bottom line in everything, (probably it always was) but there are so many more important things to be taken into account when making movies, music, art. Will it sell? Can be and has been an important maxim for making sure what you are making is something that might be enjoyed by other people, to guard yourself, in part, against self-indulgent nonsense. But when did personalising you work, trying to say something, attempting to reveal some truths, at least as you see them, at a particular moment in time, become an anathema to what is considered commercial? Why should stupid sell better than smart? Why should bland be more profitable than innovative? There is no reason, so why do our cultural touchstones seem determined to reconfigure themselves into the shape of a toilet? It’s like the Matrix never happened. Probably the sequels helped deaden its impact. But, there was a film over-flowing with action and ideas, set pieces and philosophy, broad humor and wit, familiarity and invention. Subverting genre as it re-invented genre. You don’t expect every film to be as good as that one or as successful at bringing something new to the screen but you would like to see them trying. C’mon Hollywood, pull your finger out!

I will probably watch Spider-Man 3, because I liked the first two and because Sam Raimi is a proper filmmaker. Shrek 3? The second one was one too many. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End might be a prophetic title. For all I know the filmmakers know something I don’t. Maybe the Pirates of the Caribbean films are artifacts from an alternate future, a message from our alternate selves attempting to warn us against our continued abuse of god’s green earth. From a universe not dissimilar to the one first glimpsed in Waterworld. The ice caps melted and technology dissolved with them, forcing humans to adapt to lives on board ostensibly old-fashioned galleons where mutant humanoids, resembling creatures of the sea, live and work among us… Maybe I’m asking too much for the most widely watched film community on the planet – namely, Hollywood – to be, at least, in part, at least in touch with the cutting edge, at least. Breaking film up, taking it in new directions, previously unexplored directions, investigating the possibilities of what the medium might be, or could be. Instead, they serve us largely the same old stodge and expect us to swallow it. Then again, why am I wasting valuable seconds railing against what will probably be some enjoyable, throwaway pieces of fluff, the real threat to humanity is Eddie Murphy and his fat suit. He must be stopped!


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